Friday, March 19, 2010

What is Cargill Waiting For? Cut Sinar Mas (Golden Agri Resources) Palm Oil Immediately!!

Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Shell and Sainsbury have all cut notorious rainforest destroyer Sinar Mas from their list of palm oil suppliers. However, Cargill, the multinational commodities trading giant, is yet to follow the lead of its corporate peers in taking a firm stand on corporate social responsibility and environmental protection.

Despite clear evidence that Sinar Mas, the largest palm oil producer in Indonesia, is illegally logging and clearing high conservation value rainforest and peatlands, and in the process further threatening endagered species like the Orangutan, and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, Cargill is still mucking around on the issue.

Cargill's role in the 'chain of destruction' is illustrated in the image below. The company is a middleman between the producers of the palm oil and the final users of the same.

The company has released a statement on the issue on its website, saying:

Cargill is keenly aware about the allegations made in December 2009 by Greenpeace about illegal forest clearance and the Indonesian palm oil company, Sinar Mas.

When we became aware of the Greenpeace report we contacted Sinar Mas’s senior management and we have communicated to them that we are looking to them to address the issues in the Greenpeace report. Additionally, we urged the RSPO board to review this issue. We are pleased the RSPO Board has instructed the RSPO Secretariat to get a response from Sinar Mas to the allegations in the Greenpeace report. We are continuing to follow this closely and hope to see a reply from Sinar Mas by the end of April 2010.

If the RSPO validates the allegations of improper land conversion or illegal planting in deep peat land as alleged in the Greenpeace report and Sinar Mas does not take corrective action, we will delist them.
The recent actions by Nestle and Unilever, however, demonstrate that Cargill's corporate peers have rejected the credibility of the RSPO. Indeed, the evidence of Sinar Mas' illegal and environmentally destructive activities comes in spite the fact that the company is supposedly 'certified' by the RSPO.

Forest4climate articulates the problem clearly:

So if within the palm oil industry there’s all this awareness of the potential damage they could cause to both people and the environment, why are we still finding evidence of wholesale forest destruction? Just a couple of weeks ago, we found bulldozers belonging to Sinar Mas clearing huge tracts near Jayapura in Papua, and yet Sinar Mas is an RSPO member. There’s obviously something wrong somewhere.

That something is the basic set-up of the RSPO itself. As it currently exists, its standards and principles are too vague and weak to really do any good and, as we’ve seen, some of its members are happily chewing their way through rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands. There’s no danger of actually being penalised in any way by the RSPO, even though they’re supposed to abide by the code of conduct which states “it is fundamental to the integrity, credibility and continued progress of the RSPO that every member supports, promotes and works towards the production, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil.” What kind of “integrity” or “credibility” does the RSPO have if it turns a blind eye when its members are clearing huge areas of forest or draining and burning peatlands?

Indeed, the whole point of the Greenpeace allegations is that RSPO is an organisation set up to give the palm oil producing industry merely the image of promoting corporate social responsibility, while at the same time engaging in corporate social hypocrisy. Going through the RSPO to hold Sinar Mas accountable completely misses the crux of the matter. It highly unlikely that the RSPO will ever "validate the allegations of improper land conversion or illegal planting in deep peat land"

Meanwhile, Sinar Mas continues to sidestep the issue and release more propaganda. There have been no statements coming directly from the company engaging directly the Greenpeace allegations. Instead, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported:
PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology, Sinar Mas’s palm oil unit, is “committed in applying a responsible land clearing and the best practice of farming management in all of our plantations,” President Director Jo Daud Dharsono said by phone today. “We always maintain communication with Greenpeace and we will soon arrange a meeting and have a dialogue with them,” he said.. 

Sinar Mas is obviously denying the issue and trying to sidestep their way around it.

Cargill should stop depending on the RSPO to hold Sinar Mas accountable, and instead should conduct its own independent audit of Sinar Mas' environmental practices. It should demand a direct response from Sinar Mas to the allegations, rather than going through the dubious RSPO. Indeed, in the light of the undeniable evidence and the actions of Unilever, Nestle, and other food giants, Cargill should suspend all purchases of palm oil from Sinar Mas immediately until the latter is able to demonstrate that the allegations are false.

There is no excuse for Cargill to do otherwise. Cut Sinar Mas palm oil immediately!!!

Related: "Cargill's Legacy of Destruction"

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