November 21, 2018

New RSPO standard being tested in West Papua

( - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) recently adopted a total ban on the deforestation of high carbon stock (HCS) forests and peat operations as part of its core standards (Nov 15). Nonetheless, the extent to which this new standard will be enforced by RSPO remains a key concern.

The ongoing palm oil plantation expansion by PT ANJT, an Indonesian-listed company which is also an RSPO member, is one case in point, and can be used as a yardstick for measuring how seriously the new RSPO standard is truly being implemented.

ANJT makes for a good case study as its three concessions situated in West Papua still consist of significant HCS forests and peat ecosystems which are however being targeted for palm oil expansion. 

The following Planet Explorer images, updated by forestry research NGO Greenomics Indonesia (Nov 19), portray the relentless clearing of HCS forests to make way for palm oil plantations by ANJT in part of one of its aforementioned concessions. 

Multinational companies still linked

Various huge multinational food and beverage companies have announced their intention to remove ANJT from their supply chains due to its HCS deforestation but have yet to fully do so, thus remaining linked to the company and its tainted palm oil.

Nestlé has asserted that it is in the process of heading towards the 100% removal of ANJT’s palm oil from its supply chains, as reported by (Oct 15). This was in response to a challenge from Greenomics for Nestlé to apply its blacklist policy against ANJT, as also earlier reported by this news portal (Oct 10).

Mars also declared that it will get rid of ANJT’s palm oil from its supply chain by requesting that its direct supplier ADM stop sourcing from the HCS forest and peat ecosystem-destroying company, another news story covered by (Oct 19).

In addition, Cargill stated that it would take ANJT’s palm oil out of its supply chain at the soonest, which once again was the subject of a report (Oct 24)

GAR and Wilmar, meanwhile, preceded these companies by disengaging with ANJT several years ago, as reported by Mongabay in late May 2015.

Below is some more evidence presented by Greenomics using Planet Explorer images, which depicts the clearing of HCS forests in one of ANJT’s West Papua concessions.

A huge question mark will hang over the adoption of the new RSPO standard if ANJT doesn’t stop clearing HCS forests, including the draining of peat ecosystems. 

The one-year transition granted by the RSPO for the implementation of this new standard should in no way serve as a loophole for the continuing deforestation of HCS forests and draining of peat ecosystems. 

The following Planet Explorer images, also provided by Greenomics, demonstrate another part of one of ANJT’s concessions and form the latest evidence of persistent HCS deforestation.

ANJT is among the palm oil companies carrying on with the clearing of good forest cover despite the moratorium on palm oil expansion signed by President Joko Widodo (Sep 19), as previously reported by (Oct 10).

Furthermore, ANJT is also going ahead with the development of a peat ecosystem for one of its palm oil concessions, thereby ignoring the ban on new peat ecosystem drainage  signed by the President in early December 2016. 

This time, the impact of ANJT’s operations on its three concessions in West Papua will serve as an important lesson learned, especially in the wake of the adoption of the new RSPO standard.