Campaigners call for industry-wide system to monitor deforestation

2nd September 2016

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Jennifer Hogan

Revelations of widespread illegal deforestation demonstrate that individual company efforts to stop deforestation and human rights abuse are inadequate, a campaign group has said.

More than 50,000 hectares of pristine rainforest in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku has been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, according to Mighty, a new US-based environmental NGO launched by the Center for International Policy.

Since 2013, 30,000 hectares of forests has been cleared in the two provinces, 12,000 hectares of which were primary forests, it said.

The NGO has published satellite, photographic and video evidence of massive deforestation and illegal burning of rainforest, which it claims was carried out by Korean-Indonesian corporation Korindo.

According to the organisation, the firm has used fire for land clearing, which is illegal in Indonesia. It says Korindo, which manufacturers plywood and paper, was a significant contributor to the last year’s extensive fires in the country. These led to respiratory illness in millions of people, infant deaths and cost the Indonesian economy $16bn, said Mighty.

It has filed its findings with Indonesian and Singaporean prosecutors. Singapore has a law on transboundary haze, which means it can fine foreign companies responsible for causing smoke that affects its territory.

Palm oil buyers Musim Mas, ADM and IOI, which sell to companies including cosmetics firm L’Oreal and food manufacturer General Mills, ceased using supplies from Korindo when they were given evidence of its activities, Mighty said.

However, Deborah Lapidus, the NGO’s campaign director, said that it was shocking that the firms had retained Korindo as a supplier for more than two years after adoption of their no deforestation policies.

They should have caught Korindo’s deforestation activities earlier, she argued. ‘It’s hard to miss 34,000 hectares of deforestation in the middle of a pristine rainforest,’ she said.

Lapidus called for a renewed effort to stop deforestation globally: ‘Although individual companies have made some progress on cleaning up their supply chains, the example of Korindo shows that company-by-company efforts to stop deforestation and human rights abuses are inadequate, and that an industry-wide system to monitor and police deforestation is needed immediately,’ she said.

In an article for the Singapore Strait Times, Glenn Hurowitz senior fellow at the Centre for International Policy, wrote that as long as big traders and governments tolerate deforestation, every company would suffer the reputational consequences.

To solve the problem, major palm oil buyers should work together to monitor illegal deforestation, following the model of the Brazilian Soy Moratorium, he said. This involves companies jointly monitoring deforestation in the Amazon. Any soya farmer found to be engaged in deforestation loses market access, he explained.

Within three years of this system being in use, deforestation for soya plummeted from 25% of Brazilian Amazon deforestation to 0.25%, according to Hurowitz. The Brazilian cattle industry has also reduced deforestation through a similar mechanism, he added.

Korindo could not be reached at the time of publishing this article. But the company told the Guardian that it was not responsible for illegal forest burning. Koh Gyeong Min, Korindo’s head of sustainability, said: ‘We followed all of the Indonesian regulations and acquired all the proper licences from the government for all areas of operation within our group.'


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