The latest report on the palm oil industry by Greenpeace, that accuses companies of continuing unsustainable practices and deforestation, has been dismissed by many of the companies accused, as a mere distraction, and a mere rehash of old data.
Wilmar, accused by Greenpeace in the report as having continued to buy palm oil from companies deforesting Indonesia’s rainforests, is reaffirming that it was not buying from firms with no deforestation commitment and that the environmental watchdog was ignoring the fact that the stripping of forests is mostly due to the existence of leakage markets supplied by such enterprises.
“Wilmar is singled out due to our size and scale of our operation but Greenpeace seems to have neglected the fact that deforestation is, in fact, being driven by the availability of a leakage market made up of suppliers without NDPE (No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation) commitments.,” Wilmar said in a release sent to The Palm Scribe.
In its “The Final Countdown” report launched on Wednesday, Greenpeace says global consumer brands continued to buy palm oil from companies that are deforesting Indonesia’s rainforests despite repeated pledges to clean up their supply chains. It singled out palm oil giant Wilmar as the biggest offender among the 25 groups it investigated.
Wilmar said that these suppliers accounted for some 30 percent of combined refining capacity in Indonesia and Malaysia and deplored that Greenpeace had not consulted Wilmar before publishing the accusations.
It added that Greenpeace’s allegations served “nothing more than a distraction from the genuine efforts by Wilmar to promote the sustainable development of palm oil,” and also
corrected the report, saying that Wilmar is buying from 13 supplier groups, not 18 as alleged in the report.
Sebastian Sharp, from Eagle High, was equally scathing. “As you would expect, it is a breathless tome on the evils of our industry, how it negatively affects the planet and how time is running out before a no-deforestation deadline in 2020. But a closer read reveals the Final Countdown might instead be for the anti-palm oil movement,” Sharp said.
He cited Greenpeace’s claim that 26 palm oil producers were responsible for deforesting more than 130,000 hectares of forest since the end of 2015 with 40 percent of the deforestation happening in Indonesia’s Papua and said that an area that size, “twice the size of Singapore according to the report, was actually tiny considering the vastness of Indonesian forests.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry in April 2018 put the country’s forested area at about 125.9 million hectares or covering about 63.7 percent of Indonesia’s land area. Sebastian also pointed out that the data contained in the report actually showed how slow the oil palm planting rate has been in Indonesia since 2015.
“Running out of hectares to complain about is only one of a growing list of problems for the anti-palm oil groups. Recent research has shown that while there may have been declining forest area in Asia in recent decades this has been more than compensated by the growth of forest in other areas,” he added, referring to an August report carried by Phys.org.
Meanwhile, a senior executive of one of palm oil companies included in the list but who declined to be identified said that the Greenpeace report contained a lot of old grievances which had already been addressed.
“The matters expressed by Greenpeace have already been asked before and the company has already responded to them at great length,” said the executive of the company that has palm oil operations in Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Papua.
The Greenpeace report also said that years after adopting conservation policies, “brands and traders are still unable to monitor the producer groups in their supply chains.”.
Indonesia Director of The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Tiur Rumondang, said that the organization that gathers stakeholders in the palm oil industry, both at the producing and consuming ends, remained committed to transparency and accountability.
But RSPO also “acknowledge that there are issues across the agricultural sectors, including Oil Palm, which requires attention – particularly when commodity crops are grown and produced unsustainably.” Rumondang added in a written statement.
She reaffirmed that RSPO has a system in place to ensure that RSPO Certified plantations abide by the organization’s standards, and it includes third-party certification, a system of accreditation for certification bodies, supply chain certification to the end user, traceability provided via the Palm Trace system, and an open and transparent grievance mechanism.
RSPO, Rumondang added, “take matters such as these seriously and will be looking into the specific allegations made in the Greenpeace report.
Wilmar, saying that some of the links that Greenpeace drew to assert that there was a single “company group” were stretched and there was no clear evidence that the said companies were linked by shareholding or common legal ownership.”
The company maintained that actions taken on suppliers with regards to NDPE non-compliance have to be based on either clear legal ownership/shareholding links or where there is explicit joint management and acceptance of the existence of a corporate group.
“Without clear evidence, there is a risk that we unfairly punish the innocent. We remain committed to raising potential issues with our existing suppliers, and we are proud to say that in many cases we have managed to get agreement from them to take responsibility,” it added.
With over 1,000 direct suppliers in its supply chain, Wilmar said it has invested substantial resources in developing extensive programs to socialize and implement its NDPE policy and the company continued to address the risk of association, even from mills and plantations that it does not source from, as long as they belonged to an existing supplier.