Companies' palm oil sustainability claims 'go up in flames'

By agency reporter
November 5, 2019

Household name companies are buying palm oil from producers linked to thousands of fire hotspots in Indonesia this year, according to new analysis by Greenpeace International.

The companies are even buying from individual palm oil concessions under public investigation for illegal fires.

Unilever, Mondelez, Nestle, and Proctor and Gamble are each linked to up to 10,000 fire hotspots, as they buy from palm oil producer groups with the highest numbers of fire hotpots in 2019. The palm oil traders Wilmar, Cargill, Musim Mas, and Golden-Agri Resources (GAR) have extensive links to this year’s fires in Indonesia and together supply more than three-quarters of global palm oil. The new analysis shows extensive overlap among these companies and the palm oil producer groups with the largest burned areas in 2015-2018.

“Companies have created a facade of sustainability. But the reality is that they source from the very worst offenders across the board. The companies responsible for the fires and those who financially benefit from them should be held accountable for these environmental atrocities and the devastating health impacts caused by the fires”, said Annisa Rahmawati, Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia.

According to reports, more than 900,000 people in Indonesia have suffered acute respiratory infections due to the smoke haze from this year’s fires, and nearly 10 million children are at risk of lifelong physical and cognitive damages due to air pollution. Between 1 January to 22 October 2019, the fires released an estimated 465 megatonnes of CO2, which is close to the UK’s total annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The new findings come as companies gather for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meetings in Thailand. This body certifies palm oil as sustainable and 'no burning' is a key criteria. Yet more than two-thirds of the producer groups linked to recurrent fires and all of the traders and consumer companies analysed by Greenpeace are RSPO members, some being even board members.

Global companies have made commitments to stop deforestation by 2020, but instead, forest loss has accelerated, and commodity-driven deforestation is the highest driver. Greenpeace recently stepped back from a process with Unilever, Mondelez and Wilmar to create a monitoring platform for Indonesian palm oil due to their repeated failures to take the necessary action to achieve zero deforestation.

Governments around the world have yet to take serious actions against companies or goods linked to the fires. Greenpeace is calling for the companies responsible for and profiting from the fires to be held accountable.

* Read Burning down the house: How Unilever and other global brands continue to fuel  Indonesia’s fires here

* Greenpeace International


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