Palm oil grown illegally in the 'orangutan capital of the world' is being used by top manufacturers © Getty Images/Mint Images
Palm oil grown illegally in the 'orangutan capital of the world' is being used by top manufacturers © Getty Images/Mint Images

Hundreds of companies will fail to meet 2020 deforestation targets

Hundreds of companies that pledged to cut deforestation from their supply chains are set to miss the 2020 deadline to fulfil their promises.

In an open letter, NGOs including Amazon Watch, Amnesty International, Friends of the Earth, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and Oxfam, accused companies within the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) of “greenwashing”.

The letter said the companies had failed to take action on “no deforestation” commitments pledged 10 years ago.

Lindsey Allen, executive director at RAN, said: “Ten years ago, a commitment to end corporate-fueled deforestation was commendable. But ten years of inaction, half-measures and greenwashing is deplorable.

“The executives of these CGF companies live on this same Earth and for the sake of our collective future, they can’t afford to wait any longer than anyone else can.”

A series of undercover field investigations by RAN has blamed the destruction of peat forests in Sumatra’s Leuser Ecosystem on the illegal cultivation of palm oil plantations, which is being driven by snack food brands and banks.

Palm oil grown illegally in the protected Rawa Singkil wildlife reserve –which has been dubbed the ‘orangutan capital of the world’ – has made its way into products maufactured by Unilever, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mondelez, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars and Hershey’s, RAN said.

RAN’s Gemma Tillack added: “Despite the fact that these big name brands publicly promised to end deforestation for snack foods years ago, they are still sourcing from the companies driving palm oil plantation expansion … in the lowland peat forests of the Leuser Ecosystem.

“The mills investigated here simply do not have the basic systems in place to ensure their palm oil is not driving rainforest destruction, so no company with a no-deforestation commitment can buy from them in good faith to their existing policy.” 

The ecosystem’s carbon-rich peatlands are among the most valuable and effective natural carbon sinks on earth – which means they absorb CO2.

However, when drained they transform into “carbon bombs” which “emit catastrophic levels of pollution into the atmosphere for years on end”, RAN said. 

The NGO demanded that brands stop buying palm oil sourced from the mills identified in the investigation, until the mills can prove they are only sourcing more sustainable palm oil.

Meanwhile many of the same groups in the coalition have also called on the private sector to take responsibility for fires currently burning in the Amazon.

The coalition said: “Multinational corporations helped create these conditions… and these same companies are poised to profit further as today’s fires open up the door for tomorrow’s plantations and ranches.”

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