Jakarta. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO, is investigating claims by environmental advocacy organization Greenpeace that one of the international lobby group's major members is involved in deforestation.
Greenpeace said in a report published on Sunday (24/06) that Singapore-based Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, had links to a company guilty of deforestation, despite its commitment to sustainable practices.
The allegation is the latest blow to the lobby group's efforts to promote sustainable practices in the industry and polishing the commodity's image as the most efficient vegetable oil.
The report titled "Rogue Trader: Keeping Deforestation in the Family" connects Wilmar with Gama, one of the world's largest palm oil producers, and shows that both companies were not only co-founded by Indonesian businessman Martua Sitorus, but that they are also run by members of his family.
"An area twice the size of Paris has been destroyed by Gama, a palm oil business run by senior Wilmar executives and members of their family," Greenpeace said in a statement.
Kiki Taufik, head of the Indonesia forest campaign at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said Wilmar and Gama have been working together for years, "with Gama doing the dirty work so Wilmar's hands stay clean."
"Wilmar must immediately cut off all palm oil suppliers that are unable to prove that they are not destroying rainforests," he said.
Greenpeace called on the RSPO to enforce its membership rules and require Wilmar and Gama to register as a group. According to the environmental organization, at least one Gama company, S&G Biofuel, is also an RSPO member.
"Under RSPO membership rules, companies that share management or control should be treated as one group. This makes Wilmar responsible for what happens in Gama's concessions," Greenpeace said.
Responding to the Jakarta Globe's request for comment, Tiur Rumondang, RSPO country director for Indonesian operations, said the group is aware of Greenpeace's claims and that is taking the allegations seriously.
"We remain committed to transparency and accountability and take these allegations seriously. We are investigating the accusations brought by Greenpeace," Tiur said.
No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation
In 2013, Wilmar established a no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation (NDPE) policy, which applies to not only its own plantations but also those of its suppliers. The company was reportedly the first palm oil trader to do so. Wilmar made a commitment to protect forests, peatlands and human and community rights.
However, the Greenpeace report, through mapping and satellite analysis, revealed that Gama allegedly destroyed 21,500 hectares of rainforest or peatland since these commitments were made.
The report also includes an analysis of trade data, which shows how Wilmar has continued to trade palm oil produced by Gama, despite being aware that the company was actively violating Wilmar's own NDPE policy.
In addition, Greenpeace said Wilmar has a history of selling off its most controversial concessions to Gama in order to evade responsibility for environmental and human rights abuses.
Wilmar allegedly supplies global brands, such as Procter & Gamble, Nestlé and Unilever, with palm oil produced by Gama's mills, according to Greenpeace.
"Brands cannot let this deception pass unchallenged and have no choice but to suspend all business with Wilmar until it can prove it only trades clean palm oil from responsible producers," Kiki said.
Wilmar issued a statement on Monday saying it has, as of June 20, ceased sourcing palm oil from suppliers associated with Gama.
"Wilmar will not buy from any company that cannot prove to our satisfaction that they do not belong to Gama because of the alleged identified non-compliance with Wilmar's NDPE policy," Wilmar International said in a statement.
The statement also asserted that Wilmar and Gama are two separate corporate entities with independent operations.
"Wilmar has no control, management or otherwise, over Gama. Wilmar executives with familial ties with Gama do not hold any decision-making power or influence on Wilmar's sustainability policy," the company said.
Calls to Gama's offices in Jakarta went unanswered.