As Indonesia’s president announces a temporary ban on palm oil development, one of the world’s biggest palm oil traders faces a customer revolt over its deforestation in Borneo… and it could lead to some big wins for forest protection.
Earlier this month, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) finally took action on palm oil company IOI, suspending its certification because it was destroying rainforests in Borneo. Now the destructive company can no longer claim its palm oil is ‘sustainable’.
IOI is huge: it supplies palm oil to over 300 companies, including the household brands whose products line our supermarket shelves. It’s also hugely destructive. Greenpeace International first documented IOI’s destruction of orang-utan habitat in the 2008 report ‘Burning up Borneo’.
Since then, IOI has carried on destroying forests and draining peatlands – and carried on getting caught. Last November, when fires were blazing across Indonesia, our team exposed massive fires in and around its concessions in Borneo.
IOI has also been accused of serious social and labour issues including conflicts with local communities and exploitation of workers on its Malaysian plantations.
But finally IOI is in the firing line – and its customers are leaving in droves. At least thirteen international brands including Unilever, Kellogg and Mars have agreed to stop buying palm oil from the toxic company.
Interestingly, both Colgate and Johnson & Johnson – two of the worst performing companies in our recent palm oil scorecard – were amongst those breaking ties with the palm oil giant. (PepsiCo, which also failed in our survey, doesn’t buy from IOI.) It’s a great example of how pressure from hundreds of thousands of us gets results!
With IOI’s customers in revolt, the company will be putting enormous pressure on the RSPO to resolve this quickly so it can continue with business as usual. But we can’t let it get away with a half-hearted apology – we need to push for real protection for Indonesia’s forests!
Last year, devastating forest fires blazed across Indonesia affecting wildlife, peatlands and spawning a toxic haze that affected millions of people across the region. Indonesia’s president responded by ordering peatlands to be protected and recently promised amoratorium on palm oil expansion. But there is little sign that the industry is listening.
Without radical change from companies like IOI, the deadly fires will return in just a few months.
IOI should listen to President Jokowi. As one of the world’s biggest palm oil traders, IOI could set an example for other palm oil companies by protecting and restoring the forests and peatlands it has damaged – starting with its concessions in Ketapang, Borneo.
That would be a major breakthrough for Indonesia’s rainforests, and help protect Indonesian citizens from devastating forest fires and haze. But is IOI ready to make a difference?