Korean palm oil producer Korindo looses FSC certification

The Korean palm oil conglomerate Korindo will lose its sustainability certification by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in October 2021. The FSC worked with Korindo, although various environmental groups have repeatedly raised allegations of illegal deforestation and human rights violations against local communities. The FSC has now decided to withdraw Korindo’s certification after the relationship with the Group has "become untenable". The FSC certificate should inform consumers that the products are sourced from ethical and sustainable companies.

"We were not able to verify improvements in Korindo's social and environmental performance," Kim Carstensen, FSC international director-general, said in an interview with the news outlet BBC. The Korindo group declared through its chief sustainability officer, Kwangyul Peck, that the company was "very shocked by the FSC decision" as Korindo had allegedly followed an agreed road map to address the grievances. 

Greenpeace International and Forensic Architecture published the results of a satellite imagery analysis in November 2020. The organisations concluded that Korindo had used slash and burn practices to clear rainforests in West Papua, a practice which is strictly forbidden under Indonesian law and the FSC sustainability standards.  

Previously, a 2018 report by the FSC concluded that they found "evidence without reasonable doubt" that natural forests have been cut down on a large scale in Korindo's concessions. However, the FSC said it had not found sufficient evidence of deliberate burning. Hence, Korindo continued selling its palm oil with the FSC sustainability certificate. The full report was never published because Korindo threatened to lawsuit the FSC. However, sensitive results of the FSC investigation became public after a copy of the report was leaked to the BBC.

Environmental organisations in Indonesia accuse the Korindo Group of violating national plantation regulations. The group owns three oil palm companies in the Merauke Regency with a land area of 80,931 ha and three companies in Boven Digoel Regency with a land area of 67,706 hectares, more than any other palm oil conglomerate in West Papua. According to Indonesian plantation regulations, the concession area of a conglomerate is limited to 20.000 hectares within one province, or 100.000 hectares in entire Indonesia for one commodity, including palm oil. An exception exists for Papua and Papua Barat provinces, where the maximum land tenure limit is twice the maximum land tenure area for one province.