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Palm oil giant receives cautious approval from Greenpeace

The world’s second largest palm oil producer, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), has published new plans to help conserve Indonesia’s forests and reduce its carbon footprint. In a statement, released February 9th 2011, GAR has announced that it will be working with the Government of Indonesia, The Forest Trust (TFT) and other stakeholders, to “find solutions towards forest conservation”.

GAR has developed a Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in collaboration with TFT and is aimed at creating long-term sustainable growth for GAR and the palm oil industry. The FCP also aims to ensure that GAR has a no deforestation footprint.

In response to the announcement, the environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has issued cautious approval of GAR’s plans. Bustar Maitar, head of Greenpeace’s campaign to protect Indonesian forests, has said, “This could be good news for the forests, endangered species like the orang-utan and for the Indonesian economy”.

Mr. Maitar added, “But now they’ve actually got to implement these plans, and we’re watching closely to make sure this happens”.

This action taken by GAR follows a report last year by Greenpeace in which it accused GAR’s parent group, Sinar Mas of being engaged in widespread illegal deforestation and peat-land clearance in Indonesia. Greenpeace revelations showing the destruction caused by Golden Agri-Resources have led to international corporations, such as Unilever and Nestle, cancelling their contracts with the Indonesian palm oil company.

However, this latest move by GAR could signal the start of a shift throughout the industry and eventually lead to full forest and peatland protection.

A key commitment by Golden Agri-Resources is a pledge which “focuses on no development on High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests, High Conservation Value forest areas and peat lands”. Under the company’s new plans, they have set a provisional threshold and will not be developing land that contains over 35 tonnes of carbon per hectare. Importantly, this provisional figure is in line with figures for low carbon development recommended to the Indonesian Government by their own advisors.

Greenpeace Campaign timeline

  • November 2007 – Greenpeace release report “Cooking the Climate” exposing the role of the palm oil industry in the  destruction of Indonesia’s forests.
  • April 2008 – Greenpeace launch campaign against Unilever for buying palm oil from rainforest destruction.
  • May 2008 – Unilever undertakes to clear up supply chain and support moratorium on rainforest destruction.
  • December 2009 – Unilever drops €30 million contract with Sinar Mas’ palm oil arm Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) following a  new Greenpeace report showing GAR’s involvement in the destruction of peatland, rainforests and orang-utan habitat.
  • March 2010 – Greenpeace launch campaign against Nestle for buying from GAR. Nestle, Kraft and Mars drop GAR contracts.
  • April 2010 – Nestle commit to new “no deforestation” policy.
  • August 2010 – GAR publish audit of own practises.
  • September 2010 – Burger King drops contract with GAR as a result of the audit.
  • September 2010 – The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) criticizes GAR for its environmental and social practices.  It will report on its progress to address the issues raised in March 2011.
  • February 2011 – GAR commit to “Forest Conservation” Plan.
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