Today, after a two-year investigation process prompted by a complaint filed by Mighty Earth, the International Board of Directors of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a global certification body on responsible forest management, acted in its long–delayed case against The Korindo Group.
The Korindo Group is a notorious Korean-Indonesian logging and palm oil conglomerate that has engaged in massive scale deforestation in Papua and North Maluku, Indonesia, as exposed in Mighty Earth’s “Burning Paradise” report. Yet, for years Korindo has been using the FSC’s prestigious eco-forestry label to greenwash its destructive practices. Korindo sells its timber, plywood, pulpwood, biomass, and newsprint to customers such as Asia Pulp & Paper (Indonesia), APRIL (Indonesia), Sumitomo Forestry (Japan), Oji Corporation (Japan), Marubeni (Japan), and News Corps Australia.
Today, the FSC announced its conclusion that Korindo violated its ‘Policy for Association’ and has imposed a series of measures on the company to address its liabilities for the severe damages it has caused, or else stand to be disassociated from the FSC and lose its certificates. The FSC concluded that Korindo will be required to “continue its suspension of any forest conversion and deforestation, achieve FSC certification in all its forestry operations and to comply with the principle of FPIC [Free Prior and Informed Consent]. Korindo is also required to assess past negative impact and secure remedy for it.”
Deborah Lapidus, Senior Campaigns Director at Mighty Earth, released the following statement:
“We hope this means that Korindo’s days of abusing the rights of indigenous peoples and systematically destroying vast areas of pristine rainforest with impunity are finally over. But success or failure depends on exactly what Korindo will agree to – and whether those commitments are sufficient to remedy the severe impacts Korindo has had on communities, forests, and ecosystems in Papua and North Maluku. It is critical that the remediation requirements be determined in close consultation with affected communities, and not set by Korindo which has a vested interest in minimizing its liabilities.
“The FSC’s investigation has verified the damning evidence documented by Mighty Earth and found Korindo guilty as charged. By carrying out large scale deforestation (more than 30,000 hectares in the two years prior to filing the complaint), destroying critical wildlife habitat and violating traditional and human rights, Korindo was flouting FSC standards and threatened to make a mockery of the FSC’s prestigious label. In response, it is only appropriate that the FSC makes Korindo fully accountable for its egregious conduct.
“However, it is a shame the FSC chose not to release the full findings of the three investigations it conducted concurrent with this announcement so the public and affected stakeholders could read the findings for themselves, rather than enabling Korindo to distort the facts and spin the conclusions. The FSC statement glosses over the true scale and severity of Korindo’s violations and misrepresents the Panel’s findings on fires. We call on the FSC to release the full version of the reports. Only a full, unbiased disclosure of Korindo’s wrongdoing can make it possible for the effectiveness of their remediation measures to be assessed.
“Mighty Earth calls on Korindo to return customary lands, resolve social conflicts and grievances, fairly compensate local communities for lost land, natural resources, and livelihoods, and restore damaged ecosystems. Korindo needs to finance the restoration of an area at least equivalent to that which it has destroyed over the past two decades.
“If Korindo delivers on what must be a commitment running into the hundreds of millions of dollars of liabilities, the FSC’s actions today will set a strong precedent. Today’s announcement has put other companies, like Korindo’s neighbor in Papua, Posco International, on notice that rampant deforestation and destruction of indigenous lands must be eliminated and remedied.”
Mighty Earth is calling on the FSC to pursue new investigations into the many other FSC-certified groups engaged in deforestation and human rights abuses. To that end, Mighty Earth recently filed a new complaint against the KTS Group for its continued violation of the FSC Policy for Association. The complaint documents evidence that KTS’s oil palm business, BLD Plantation, has cleared more than 10,000 hectares of carbon-rich peat forests in Sarawak (Malaysia) in the last five years and violated the rights of local indigenous people. KTS pulpwood customers include the Indonesian paper giants, Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and APRIL, which both have No Deforestation, No Peat, and No Exploitation policies. The FSC has yet to take a decision to process this complaint.
Quotes from Indonesian partners working in Papua:
Franky Samperante from Yayasan Pusaka stated: “For two decades, Korindo has gotten away with violating land rights without exposure, while selling itself in the media as a savior to the Papuan people. Therefore, it is important that people know the reality of what has transpired in Papua and North Maluku. The FSC has a responsibility to release its findings in full.”
Pastor Anselmus Amo from SKP-KAMe Meruake added : “Korindo has destroyed community lands and livelihoods without people’s consent, robbed communities of their natural resources, subjected people to violence and intimidation, and polluted the rivers – all while hiring mainly workers outside Papua. Korindo is also not doing its CSR seriously. We hope the FSC will consult directly with affected communities to better understand Korindo’s bad actions and the communities’ views on what fair compensation and remediation measures would be. We stand ready to help.”