Palm oil giant accused of rainforest destruction caught ‘red-handed’

| 29th July 2010
The clearing of peatland - shown here close to Lake Sentarum National Park, Indonesia - releases huge amounts of greenhouse gases (© Rante/Greenpeace)
Indonesia’s largest palm oil and pulp group, Sinar Mas, is continuing to destroy rainforests and peatland despite promises to end the practice

A major supplier of palm oil and pulp (paper) to multinationals, including food giant Cargill, has been caught clearing orang-utan habitats and carbon-rich peatlands.

The Sinar Mas group, which has supplied palm oil to Nestlé, Kraft and Unilever, had previously promised to clean up its act and claims it doesn't touch peatland or forests of ‘high conservation value’.

However, a Greenpeace investigation has photographed plant operators clearing rainforest in peatland areas (illegal in Indonesia since 2007) and in a known orang-utan habitat.

Confidential documents obtained by the NGO also reveal that the company has ambitions to expand further into rainforest and peatland areas, which store vast amounts of carbon that is released into the atmosphere when they are burnt in preparation for plantations.

Expansion plans

Sinar Mas has one of the largest land banks in the world, with 1.3 million hectares available for plantation expansion. Greenpeace says any expansion will come at the cost of forest ecosystems, and is calling on the palm and pulp giant to release maps detailing all of its landholdings to enable analysis of which areas are critically important for biodiversity and climate protection.

‘We’ve caught Sinar Mas red-handed destroying valuable rainforests and breaching the limited promises it has made to clean up its act,’ said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace forest campaigner. ‘This is typical of a group that has an appalling record of environmental destruction. Sinar Mas has to be reigned in if there is to be a future for what’s left of Indonesia’s rainforests.’

Nestlé has previously responded to criticism of Sinar Mas by promising to cancel its direct contracts with the company. However, Greenpeace says Nestlé and others still source palm oil from the group through third party suppliers.

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