April 28, 2018

TFT agrees with Greenpeace but rejects claim of failure

( - The Forest Trust (TFT) has expressed its agreement with a recent statement from Greenpeace UK declaring that British supermarket chain Iceland’s decision to stop using palm oil in its brand products from the beginning of next year represents ‘a direct response to the palm oil industry’s failure to clean up its act.’

Nonetheless, TFT is not in total agreement with Greenpeace especially with regard to the assertion that the palm oil supply chains of its members remain linked with deforestation and peat destruction.

"We agree with Greenpeace's statement that ‘time is running out for wildlife, the climate and everyone who depends on healthy forests for their survival’. We also agree that palm oil's continued association with deforestation and social issues has led to the lack of trust in the industry."

TFT conveyed this in a written response (Apr 25) to a number of questions put to it by (Apr 18) concerning Iceland's decision as well as Greenpeace's reaction to this decision.

According to TFT, ending the use of products containing palm oil is one way for companies to express their frustration at palm oil supply chains which are still beset by deforestation and social issues.

However, TFT confirmed that it prefers to adopt an approach that engages with businesses, suppliers and mills in order to understand the issues, and then attempts to change their behaviour. In the view of TFT, a simple ban on palm oil usage does not solve the root problems, meaning that deforestation and exploitation will continue to take place. 

It should be recognized that, in line with its explanation on this issue, the facts show that TFT's engagements with a number of palm oil buyers and suppliers have had a positive impact, to a certain extent, in reducing the rate of deforestation.

On the other hand, many of these favourable effects have, to a larger extent, come about due to the ongoing high-level of pressure applied by third-party monitoring, including legal action and efforts to halt peat destruction undertaken by the Indonesian Environment and Forestry Ministry.

In fact, in many cases deforestation and peat destruction remains underway to make way for the expansion of palm oil plantations with supply chains linked to TFT members. Although this has been exposed by third-party monitors, including Indonesian forestry authorities, no real action has been taken by TFT members, most notably Wilmar and Nestle.

For example, a recent news report posted by demonstrated that Wilmar, Nestlé and Mars are associated with a GAMA Plantation company called PT GAN which has been caught destroying peat forests inhabited by the Bornean orangutan.

These TFT members have done nothing whatsoever to address this issue with the case still in the law enforcement process at the Environment and Forestry Ministry. The photos below shed light on this situation.

Even Unilever, which was involved in months of discussion with TFT, Climate Advisers and Wilmar leading to the release of Wilmar's NDPE policy in early December 2013, is still engaged with companies which are actively wiping out Papua's pristine forests as well as Borneo's orangutan-inhabited peat forests, as previously reported by 

No failure?

TFT gave an emphatic 'No' when asked whether it can be concluded that Iceland's decision represents a failure on the part of TFT in facilitating the business transformation of its members, in particular with respect to cleaning up their act by dissociating themselves from deforestation and peat destruction.

"No. Since 2010, we've seen a number of changes within the industry which clearly show that success can come through business transformation. In 2010, for instance, the first zero deforestation commitment was made by Nestlé and, together with Greenpeace and GAR, we have developed a methodology to define forests - the High Carbon Stock methodology," TFT explained.

Since then, TFT continued, "469 companies have made similar no deforestation, no peat and no exploitation (NDPE) commitments and a chain reaction report from last year showed that thanks to these commitments, hundreds of bulldozers were stopped from felling forests across the world." 

With regard to this statement from TFT, there is certainly no disagreement about the obvious ground-level progress that has been made, as well as improved palm oil supply chain transparency, thanks to the implementation of NDPE commitments declared by major palm oil buyers and suppliers. 

However, numerous reports continue to indicate that many bulldozers have yet to be successfully stopped from perpetuating deforestation, specifically that connected to the palm oil supply chains of TFT members, as recently revealed by Greenpeace itself.

The following photos taken by Greenpeace in late March and early April this year provide an example of how Papuan forests are being cleared for palm oil expansion linked to the supply chains of Nestle and Mars. Both are TFT members. 

Pressed on its position regarding continuing deforestation involving global palm oil supply chains, including the supply chains of its members' buyers and suppliers, TFT asserted that "we're changing the behaviour of industries that have been operating for decades in a certain way."

Welcomed but contested 

TFT contended that "we welcome Greenpeace's comments but disagree that this represents a failure of our business transformation approach. They, like us, know that the change in a supply chain doesn't depend on one organization and that it doesn't occur without a significant investment of both time and resources; they are well aware of the progress that has taken place."

"By continuing to work with Greenpeace," TFT added, "we are certain that we can accelerate change within the palm oil sector and we look forward to doing so."

However, TFT's claim that 'only a few TFT members are working in the palm oil industry', is somewhat undermined by the fact that Wilmar - the world's largest palm oil trader which controls 45% of the planet's palm oil trade and sources palm oil from over 80% of global palm oil growers - is a TFT member.  

Wilmar's supply chains remain tarnished by deforestation and peat destruction, including the ongoing obliteration of the Bornean orangutan's habitat, which in turns taints TFT's reputation.

In an interview with in July last year, CEO of Washington-based global campaign organization Mighty Earth Glenn Hurowitz, who was intensively involved in facilitating the creation of Wilmar's zero deforestation supply chain policy, insisted that while greater transparency among global palm oil supply chains is appreciated, any business transformation will be irrelevant if it continues to be accompanied by deforestation and peat destruction. 

These words from Hurowitz should give TFT pause for thought when assessing the effectiveness of its business transformation strategy.

Meanwhile, in response to the ongoing deforestation and peat destruction taking place within global palm oil supply chains, Indonesian Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya demanded early this year that companies which have adopted a deforestation-free supply chain policy comply with their commitments by implementing them on the ground level.