Two giants slow to cut ties with Papua deforestation

(foresthints.news) - Ganda Group, a palm oil business group seen as controversial by a number of environmental and social NGOs, is continuing to clear high carbon stock (HCS) forests to expand its palm oil plantations in Papua. This state of affairs reaffirms that global palm oil supply chains remain linked to the deforestation of HCS forests. 

In September 2017, foresthints.news reported on the ongoing clearing of Papua’s HCS forests by PT APM, a subsidiary of the Ganda Group which has since rebranded itself as GAMA Plantation. That news report questioned the linkages of Wilmar’s supply chains seeing that GAMA Plantation is one of the giant corporation’s direct palm oil suppliers.

While the GAMA Plantation company PT APM is currently still in the early stages of new palm oil plantation development in Papua and does not yet have any mills there, its parent company does own mills in other provinces that continue to supply palm oil to Wilmar. In fact, not only Wilmar but multinational giant Unilever also buys directly from mills owned by GAMA Plantation.

Indeed, Unilever’s supply chains are even more tainted given that the consumer goods company also purchases palm oil directly from mills belonging to PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJT) in Sumatra and Borneo, while other PT ANJT companies operating in West Papua province are still clearing HCS forests for new palm oil plantation expansion, as earlier reported by foresthints.news (Feb 27).

The fact that Unilever still buys palm oil from both GAMA Plantation and PT ANJT means that its supply chains remain very much linked to the deforestation of Papua’s HCS forests.

The clearing of Papua’s HCS forests by GAMA Plantation, which as of February this year was still underway, was demonstrated by Greenomics Indonesia (Mar 9) using the USGS and ESA satellite images below:

All of this highlights the fact that the supply chains of both Unilever and Wilmar remain closely connected to the clearing of HCS forests in Papua, while also proving that these two giants have not yet been able to remove deforestation footprints from their supply chains.

Wilmar’s inconsistencies on show

The continuing clearing of Papua’s HCS forests by PT ANJT drove Wilmar to take the step of suspending its purchasing of palm oil from the Indonesian-listed company in April 2015, a move that was announced to the public.

However, Wilmar has treated GAMA Plantation very differently, as yet declining to disengage GAMA Plantation from its supply chains by making a similar public announcement. This is just one example of the inconsistencies in Wilmar’s efforts to clean up its supply chains from deforestation.

The different treatment displayed by Wilmar certainly raises a huge question as to how committed the world’s largest palm oil trader truly is to implementing its No Deforestation, No Peat and Exploitation (NDPE) policy which was declared in early December 2013.

Awaiting radical steps from Unilever

Unilever, meanwhile, should refrain from using the irrelevant excuse that it does not source palm oil from companies that are clearing Papua’s HCS forests, therefore it does not need to disengage its supply chains from PT ANJT and GAMA Plantation.

The whole rationale behind this excuse is totally wrong and illogical in terms of Unilever’s supposed efforts to clean up its supply chains, given that the mills supplying palm oil to Unilever and the companies continuing to clear Papua’s HCS forests share the same parent companies, namely PT ANJT and GAMA Plantation.

In contrast, Golden Agri Resources (GAR) put an end to its buying of palm oil from PT VMA, a company owned by Eagle High Plantations, because this company was in the early stages of developing new plantations in the first few months of 2015, involving the clearing of Papua’s HCS forests.

However, since GAR was also purchasing palm oil from other mills owned by Eagle High located in other provinces, these two palm oil business groups undertook a ‘deep engagement’ which ultimately gave rise to zero deforestation practices at PT VMA, a situation which continues until today.

It is unquestionably very important that Unilever absorbs some lessons learned from the GAR-Eagle High experience of deep engagement as a path forward in ridding any hint of Papua’s deforestation from its supply chains.