An investigation by ‘Greenpeace’ has revealed that the companies Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever buy palm oil from a group whose subsidiary is responsible for the illegal destruction of rainforests in Papua. The international companies have published a ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ policy that should prohibit sourcing from palm oil companies which produce their palmoil in unsustainable ways. Greenpeace published a video and photos (see images to this article), showing massive deforestation in PT Megakarya Jaya Raya, a palm oil concession controlled by the Hayel Saeed Anam Group (HSA). The footage was taken in March and April 2018.
A satellite analysis of the developed area indicates that, PT Megakarya Jaya Raya (MJR) cleared around 4,000 ha of rainforest between May 2015 and April 2017 – an area almost half the size of Paris. After a four months break, the clearing of land was continued in September/October 2017. Parts of the affected areas are located inside a peatland protection zone. The zones were introduced by the Indonesian government in response to the devastating forest fires in 2015 and prohibit the clearing of rainforests within these areas. Although PT MJR is not yet producing palm oil, two other HSA subsidiary companies – Arma Group and Pacific Oils & Fats – supplied palm oil to Mars, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, according to supply chain information released by the brands earlier this year.
This is not the first time that Unilever, which claims to be the pioneer of sustainable palm oil – purchases palm oil from companies that deliberately destroy rainforests in Indonesia. In 2015, the Indonesian government identified dozens of companies which were responsible for millions of hectares of burnt forest and peat land. The palm oil company RKK – a plantation company of the Makin Group which is a supplier to Unilever – was prosecuted for the arson. The examples elucidate that palm oil production can never be fully sustainable. The cases also raise serious doubts regarding the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO policy requires members not to have unaffiliated palm oil divisions. Though, PT MJR and the other HSA Group concessions are not direct members to RSPO, many other HSA Group palm oil companies are RSPO certified.
The Indonesian Government is in the process of negotiating with the European Union (EU) over a the free trade agreement CEPA. The palm oil trade is among the dominating topics during the talks. Environmental activists world wide fear that the CEPA agreement could result in an increase of national palm oil production due to growing demands in European markets. This would mean further deforestation of primary rain forest areas and increase of conflicts over land with local communities.