In December 2013, Wilmar International, which controls 45 percent of the $50 billion palm oil trade, announced that its worldwide operations, subsidiaries and third-party suppliers would commit to a “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy.
Yet last week, the Indonesian environmental group Greenomics released a report that claims Genting Plantations (a Wilmar palm oil supplier) is still clearing forests.
The report is based on government data and spatial analysis of land concessions controlled by PT Permata Sawit Mandiri, PT Langgam Inti Hibrindo and the Genting subsidiary PT Citra Sawit Cemerlang in Sumatra and Borneo (note: “PT” is an abbreviation of “Perseroan Terbatas,” the equivalent of a limited liability company in English).
Within these concessions, secondary forest clearing is evident, including an area classified as orangutan habitat by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Wilmar’s commitment to zero deforestation palm oil went into effect for its own plantations immediately, but the commitment does not apply to its other palm oil sources until 2015. The company responded to the allegations of deforestation in a statement to Mongabay.
“We note the suppliers named in the report and will address those concerns through this channel accordingly,” said a Wilmar spokesperson.
The spokesperson added that “non-compliance is dealt with on a case-by-case basis.”
Wilmar also voiced its preference for handling potential breaches of its commitment without media involvement:
“We urge NGOs and other stakeholders to raise their concerns regarding any supplier either directly with Wilmar or with the RSPO (if the alleged supplier is also a RSPO member), rather than via media or other channels, to enable issues to be addressed in an effective and timely manner. While we had anticipated challenges in implementing the Policy, we will continue to work relentlessly with the various industry stakeholders to overcome them.”
In its report, Greenomics urges Wilmar to release full details of its anti-deforestation policy and 2015 timeline, “so that the civil society groups that monitor the operations of Wilmar’s third party suppliers may determine whether or not violations are committed in respect of the clearance of HCS forests, peatlands, and endangered species habitat by Wilmar’s third party suppliers during the period from 5 December 2013 to 31 December 2015.”
At the recent UN climate summit in New York, Wilmar reaffirmed its commitment to zero deforestation by signing the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge alongside Cargill, Asian Agri, Golden-Agri-Resources and the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.