Jakarta. Some of the world's largest brands, including PepsiCo, Unilever and Nestlé, have continued to buy palm oil from companies accused of being responsible for mass deforestation in Indonesia, a new report by Greenpeace International showed on Wednesday (19/09).
In the report titled "Final Countdown: Now or Never to Reform the Palm Oil Industry," Greenpeace accuses 25 palm oil producers of having destroyed more than 130,000 hectares of natural forest in Indonesia since 2015 – an area almost twice the size of Singapore.
According to the environmental advocacy group, 12 brands, including Colgate-Palmolive, Kellogg's, Mondelez and L'Oreal, sourced their palm oil from these producers.
"Brands are not just complicit in rainforest destruction and exploitation, but – through their palm oil purchases – actively fund those responsible for it," Greenpeace said.
The environmental group claims that Wilmar International, the world's largest palm oil trader, bought from 18 of the identified producers. The investigation showed that Wilmar failed to sever its links with groups responsible for rainforest destruction, despite the company's commitment to sustainable practices.
"Palm oil can be produced without destroying rainforests. But our investigation shows that the palm oil Wilmar trades is still utterly contaminated with rainforest destruction," Kiki Taufik, head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia's Indonesia forest campaign, said in a statement.
In 2013, Wilmar established its No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy, which reportedly made it the first palm oil trader to do so. The company made a commitment to protect forests, peatlands and human and community rights, which applies not only to its own plantations but also those of its suppliers.
In June, Greenpeace published a report showcasing Wilmar's links to Gama, a company guilty of deforestation. The company has since ceased sourcing palm oil from suppliers associated with Gama.
Greenpeace said Wilmar must take the lead and prove that it no longer sources palm oil from producers that destroy forests by requiring all its suppliers to publish mill location data and concession maps for their entire operations.
The organization also urged Wilmar to transform its supply chain and only trade with producers that comply with its NDPE policy by 2020.
In addition, the report showed that 40 percent of the deforestation took place in Papua, a region Greenpeace says had been untouched by the palm oil industry until recently.
"Papua is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and its pristine forests had until recently been spared the destruction happening elsewhere in Indonesia. But now the palm oil industry is moving in and clearing forests at an alarming rate," Kiki said.
He said the new report also documents worker exploitation, conflicts with communities, illegal deforestation and development without permits.
Kiki said Greenpeace investigated at least 20 palm oil groups supplying the makers of famous consumer goods, such as Kit-Kat, Dove, Ritz crackers and Colgate toothpaste.
"The time is up for forest-destroying products and producers … If big brands want our business, they need to earn it," he said.
Along with this week's report, Greenpeace launched a campaign urging global consumers to sign an online petition to "drop dirty palm oil."
More than 275,000 people have so far signed the petition.
In a statement issued a day before the Greenpeace report was published, Wilmar said it was "disappointed" with the allegations, referring to it as "nothing more than a distraction" from its genuine efforts to promote sustainable palm oil.
The company said it had, since 2013, been evaluating its suppliers' compliance through a verification program, which involves the monitoring of 11 million hectares of plantations and mills operating across Malaysia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
Wilmar said it has so far suspended 16 supplier groups for failing to improve their policies or actions.
In the statement, the company also laid out a new action plan aimed at improving and accelerating the implementation of its NDPE policy.
The action plan, which Wilmar will implement in partnership with The Forest Trust and publish at the end of September, covers aspects such as a more comprehensive global monitoring and verification system to track both environmental and social performance of groups in Wilmar's supply chain and to make transparent disclosure of their progress.