Unilever Drops Palm Oil Producer After Greenpeace Links It to Forest Crime

05/25/2011 02:55 pm ET

Earlier this year, Gandi Sulistiyanto, one of Sinar Mas' managing directors, told Reuters that, "We should have been arrested if we had ever been involved in deforestation." Mr. Sulistiyanto may regret those words after Greenpeace presented new evidence that Sinar Mas, Indonesia's biggest palm oil producer, has been persistently engaging in widespread illegal deforestation and peatland clearance.

We presented presented the evidence in this dossier to one of their biggest customers, the giant Unilever corporation, and now Unilever has decided to stop buying palm oil from Sinar Mas.

To shine a light on deforestation in Indonesia and present solutions, Greenpeace earlier this set up our Climate Defenders Camp on the Kempar Peninsula. Indonesia has one of the fastest rates of forest loss in the world.  The destruction of the country's peatlands alone accounts for 4 percent of global human induced greenhouse gas emissions, propelling Indonesia to become the world's third largest greenhouse gas emitter, after the US and China.

Greenpeace's new report shows how Sinar Mas groups's palm oil operations in Kalimantan are in violation of national laws in indonesia and in breach of principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as it is cutting timber, clearing forests and draining peatland without proper environmental impacts assessments or obtaining correct permits. 

The move by Unilever, the world's largest consumer of palm oil, is expected to have far reaching implications for the palm oil sector, as other producers and suppliers move to avoid similar sanctions and position themselves as good environmental citizens.

Executives at Unilever confirmed that the evidence against Sinar Mas was now too strong to ignore and action had to follow. Ending contracts with this company is the only way to send strong signals that palm oil consumers want to break the link between the palm oil they use and forests and peatland clearance.

Sinar Mas is the largest palm oil company in Indonesia and the second largest in the world. It's also behind Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Indonesia's most notorious paper producer. Greenpeace estimates that the carbon emissions associated with the company's operations in Riau province alone are responsible for 2.5 million tones of C02 each year.

The Sinar Mas group is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry association intended to promote environmental sustainability in the palm oil industry. Evidence of Sinar Mas wrongdoing, presented in our report, shows that membership of the RSPO alone is not sufficient proof of a company's environmental credentials.

Greenpeace is calling on President Yudhoyono to implement an immediate moratorium on any further destruction of Indonesia's rainforests and peat lands. He has the ideal platform to make this commitment when he attends the critical UN Copenhagen Climate Summit where forest protection to decrease global emissions will be discussed.  Greenpeace is promoting the creation of a global fund to end deforestation in countries like Indonesia and Brazil, which requires industrialized countries to invest $45 billion annually in forest protection.