Evidence indicates Wilmar’s grievance progress updates not real

(foresthints.news) - The biggest agri-commodity company in Asia, Wilmar International, provides regular reports to its stakeholders on its grievance list, including progress updates. However, there is growing evidence that these progress updates are not real as they diverge from the facts on the ground level.

One piece of evidence indicating that these updates from Wilmar do not reflect the real facts has been exposed by Greenomics Indonesia.

In August 2015, Greenomics released a report disclosing how PT SJAL (Gunas Group), a supplier of Wilmar, was continuing to construct new canals and clear forested peatlands located in West Kalimantan province.

In following up on this report, Wilmar held a dialogue with the Gunas Group in late August of the same year. As a result of the dialogue, the Gunas Group agreed to stop all clearing activities in the PT SJAL palm oil concession from 1 September 2015.

This commitment made by the Gunas Group was entered into Wilmar’s grievance list with progress updates and still appeared in this list as of 5 April 2017. This is despite the fact that after 1 September 2015, PT SJAL, instead of stopping all clearing activities as agreed, continued with the clearing of forested peatlands, including peat drainage.

These actions, in contrast, were not listed in Wilmar’s progress updates. This is just one piece of evidence that Wilmar has no monitoring and verification system in place to handle grievances concerning violations of its own policy to clean up its supply chains from deforestation and new peat development.

Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, Vanda Mutia Dewi, delivered some scathing criticism of Wilmar in a discussion forum on peat protection in the Environment and Forestry Ministry (Mar 30). “This is just one piece of evidence demonstrating that Wilmar’s progress updates are not really verified,” she pointed out.

Greenomics brought forward evidence - which has been verified through USGS Landsat 8 images - showing that the forested peatlands seen in the Google earth images below were cleared by PT SJAL after 1 September 2015.

From this, Greenomics came to the conclusion that the progress updates presented to the public by Wilmar are clearly not backed up by monitoring and verification on the ground level.

“We suggest that Wilmar, before posting any more progress updates on grievances from stakeholders, first verify exactly what is happening in the field. Stakeholders should then receive these updates based on the results of this latest verification,” Vanda urged.

Unsatisfactory meeting

When Wilmar was asked by foresthints.newsfor the company’s view on the failure of PT SJAL to comply with its promise to stop clearing activities, Wilmar's spokeperson responded by email (Apr 12).

Wilmar wrote “We have held a meeting with SJAL’s management to raise our concerns on SJAL’s land clearing activities and for SJAL to provide their clarification. The meeting was not satisfactory, and we are in the process of arranging a further meeting with SJAL.”

Wilmar’s statement went further, adding: “Meanwhile we have requested SJAL to provide further supporting documentary evidence of their clarification.”

With respect to this response, foresthints.news is still awaiting further clarification from Wilmar and will continue to report on this unfolding story, focusing especially on how the case is handled by Wilmar - bearing in mind that this will serve as a lesson learned for all relevant stakeholders.

Wilmar’s approach to this case will be particularly revealing, considering that in early December 2013, Wilmar declared its “no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation policy”, while also making a commitment to cleaning up its supply chains, most notably from deforestation and new peat development.

Despite this commitment, several recent pieces of evidence point to the fact that Wilmar's supply chains remain linked to deforestation and new peat development.