Research: Commentary

Possible Breakthrough: Indonesian Oil Giant Promises Zero Deforestation

Grist, February 15, 2011 | Article

By Glenn Hurowitz

Potential good news for orangutans, tigers, and the climate: Indonesian palm oil giant Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), a subsidiary of all-round planet pulper Sinar Mas (palm oil, illegal logging, coal) is promising not to destroy forests and ultra carbon-rich peatlands for palm oil.

Here’s the skinny from Rolf Skar of Greenpeace, whose multi-year campaign targeting Sinar Mas seems to paying dividends:

This move by GAR would have been almost unimaginable just a year ago, and -- if properly implemented -- could be an historic step towards full forest and peatland protection in Indonesia. It could also be enormously important for the survival of endangered wildlife like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, and rhinoceros that have been pushed toward extinction as their forest habitat disappeared at a record rate.


Follow-through will be needed -- and soon. Sinar Mas has a terrible record of not living up to its commitments and then deceiving the public about its efforts. Just this August, Sinar Mas’ own auditor publicly repudiated the company’s claims that it had not destroyed ultra carbon-rich peatlands for palm oil. Sinar Mas’ logging unit undertook similar deception -- denying that it was clear cutting hundreds of thousands of rainforests, including some of the last forests with tigers and elephants in Sumatra, until satellite evidence proved otherwise. World Wildlife Fund had previously withdrawn from an agreement that involved APP ending its use of fiber from natural forest -- when the company insisted it had to destroy 180,000 hectares of forest to “become sustainable.” In other words, it’s extremely hard to trust Sinar Mas -- despite their multi-million dollar greenwashing campaign attempting to convince Americans

Nonetheless, Greenpeace is giving Sinar Mas’ palm oil unit GAR the temporary benefit of the doubt, and is for now halting efforts to get additional companies to join giants like Unilever and Nestle in efforts to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas (though best of all would be for companies to use sustainable, healthier alternatives like canola oil rather than get mixed up in the very dirty palm oil business). They and other rainforest advocates are hoping this announcement causes the Indonesian government to get considerably more serious about its announced two year moratorium on deforestation – which is being at least undercut in spirit by three million hectares of new concessions granted the day before the moratorium was supposed to go into force. If Sinar Mas really has turned over a new leaf (and I’m not holding my breath), it could also mean significant lessening of the unholy and corrupting pressures on Indonesian government officials to authorize wholesale deforestation -- leading to a new day for Indonesia’s paradise forests and their wildlife.

Copyright 2011 Grist. Original article published here.

CIP in the Press
  • RSPO Recertifies IOI Group, But NGOs Have Yet to See ‘Real Action on the Ground’

    CIP quoted

    Sustainable Brands, 08-09-16

    Less than five months after the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suspended Malaysian palm oil producer IOI Group’s certification, that suspension has been lifted – much to the dismay of NGO campaigners. While the RSPO’s Complaints Panel has said it is “satisfied that IOI has met the conditions set out in its letter to IOI,” Greenpeace Indonesia and the Center for International Policy says they have yet to see any real action on the ground...Read More »

  • Think Tanks and their Corporate Funders: Who’s Selling What?

    Bill Goodfellow quoted

    Nonprofit Quarterly, 08-09-16

    The article concedes that much of Brookings’ work appears unconnected, at least on the surface, to corporate interests. Still, as Bill Goodfellow, the executive director of the Center for International Policy, another think tank, said, “People think of think tanks as do-gooders, uncompromised and not bought like others in the political class. But it’s absurd to suggest that donors don’t have influence. The danger is we in the think tank world are being corrupted in the same way as the political world. And all of us should be worried about it.”—Ruth McCambridge...Read More »

  • Thousands of Pages of Confidential Think Tank Documents Detail Corporate Ties

    Bill Goodfellow quoted

    DESMOG, 08-09-16

    “People think of think tanks as do-gooders, uncompromised and not bought like others in the political class,” Bill Goodfellow, executive director of one think tank, the Center for International Policy, told The New York Times. “The danger is we in the think tank world are being corrupted in the same way as the political world. And all of us should be worried about it.”...Read More »