After mountains of bad press, an unprecedented online outcry and actions from China to Switzerland, Nestle has responded to our campaign…sort of.
Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe released a public statement to explain what Nestle is doing (or not doing) to address its links to deforestation. His statement has been a main feature on the Nestle homepage since the company’s shareholder meeting – which was invaded by orangutans and banner dropping activists.
His statement expresses concern about rainforests and peatlands, but does not make commitments that would go far enough to save them.
In addition to side-stepping adequate action, Brabeck tried to shift blame onto the biofuels industry, another large user of palm oil. It is true that growing demand for palm oil derived biofuels for transportation is a real threat to rainforests. This is not news to anyone, especially Greenpeace forest campaigners who have been working the issue for years. But Brabeck’s half-hearted attempt to shift the blame does not erase his company’s contribution to the problem.
So, what has Nestle actually done to deal with its palm oil problem? A few hours after our global campaign began, Nestle canceled direct contracts with Sinar Mas. But Nestle’s direct contracts with Sinar Mas made up a very small amount of the company’s overall palm oil purchases. Nestle continues to use palm oil and other products from Sinar Mas via third party suppliers such as agribusiness giant Cargill.
Brabeck’s statement said that "Cargill has informed us that Sinar Mas needs to answer Greenpeace’s allegations by the end of April. They have indicated that they will delist Sinar Mas if they do not take corrective action by then." There are only two days left in April.
If Cargill misses this deadline, or does not delist Sinar Mas, what will Nestle do?
Will the largest food and drink company hold its suppliers like Cargill accountable? Will it follow-up words with real action? Do Nestle executives actually think empty promises and half-measures will stop the public outcry over orangutan habitat destruction, deforestation and climate pollution? Let's ask them!
Tweet a question to: @Nestle.
Fill out their customer service form.
And click on our take action page to deliver your message to Nestle.
Ask Nestlé what it will do if Cargill does not confirm by end of this week that it will drop Sinar Mas. Read fresh evidence of forest destruction and the fascinating first hand account from Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner Joko Arif here.
Vast, bald, deforested areas surrounded us, while in the background we could see the wall of surviving forest. Evidence of forest clearing was all around us so we had what we'd come for — but strangely we hadn't caught anyone red-handed. There were no workers in sight.
Our scouting team went ahead to track down the company in the act of destroying the forest while the rest of us stayed behind to bake in the extreme heat. There's not a single tree left, so there was no shade. It was noon on Friday April 23rd and we had found fresh evidence that palm oil supplier Sinar Mas is still in the process of destroying Indonesian rainforests.
Land is ready to begin planting for expansion of palm oil plantations in the concession area of PT Buana Adhitama © Greenpeace / Bina Karos
Today, April 27th, Sinar Mas held its Annual General Meeting in Singapore and we presented the fresh evidence we collected over the weekend at a press conference just before the start of the AGM — but getting this new evidence was not easy.
We set out for Palangkaraya, the capital of Central Kalimantan in Indonesia, on April 23rd to meet other NGO friends, exchange information, and gather more data on what PT Buana Adi Tama (PT BAT for short), a subsidiary of notorious forest and climate destroyer Sinar Mas, has been up to in the area.
See the latest evidence of Sinar Mas' forest destruction on Al Jazeera:
Previously, after hours of pawing through documents, we had discovered that the company was — as we suspected — illegally clearing the forest without a timber cutting permit until 2008. And from what we had seen, we strongly suspected that it was still operating illegally. Sinar Mas has broken its promise to stop this sort of destruction — again. The area the company is clearing also overlaps with orangutan habitat and it has already cleared some areas where orangutans have been frequently spotted. We had to catch them red-handed.
We wasted no time. The following day, we picked up some journalists who wanted to come with us to gather their own evidence and, along with the rest of our team, stepped on it. We were in a remote region and the road was bad. We went off the track several times and it felt as though we were in an international rally, the only difference was that there were no flags and people waving — and that on either side of us lay mile upon mile of degraded forest land and palm oil plantations.
© Greenpeace / Bina Karos
Finally we arrived in Kuala Kuayan, a small village on the Mentaya river bank, our final stop before we headed out to the scene of the destruction.
The next day we were up before dawn and rushed to kickstart the trip. On the way, we picked up our local contact and a local deer hunter, who frequently sees orangutans during his hunting trips near forest areas that PT BAT is destroying. There were now 12 people in our group, including two drivers. We traveled fast through the morning dawn, nervous because we had no idea what awaited us or whether we’d run into unfriendly folks from the company while we gathered our evidence.
Just half an hour from our target site we skidded to a halt. The road had already been bad but ahead it became an impossibly deep, muddy off-road track. We suddenly faced our most difficult situation of the trip. The drivers were not convinced we could get through it. Motorcycles were our best bet — but where could we find motorcycles in the middle of nowhere? But luck was on our side — it was as if God was forbidding us to give up: two local guys appeared from nowhere on motorbikes. When our local contact told them about our destination, they offered to help us in any way they could. Minutes later, one of the journalists and a couple of our team were off up the track to scout conditions on the road ahead. They returned with bad news: there were two big ditch-like paths that we’d have to get past to get to the location. It was too hot to hike so we had no choice but to try and move on.
We were all holding our breath as the first car drove in to the muddy and deep pathway — but it got through. This gave us enough bravery to try the other one. We had to haul it out of the mud with ropes, but we did it. The old saying proved right: if you already have the courage to overcome one big obstacle and you succeed, that success will guide you to beat the others. And with that optimism we overcame the other two obstacles, though we had to pull the cars all the way.
Pulling the cars out.
By noon we had reached the location where the clearing was taking place, but no workers were there. To solve the puzzle, we headed off to the workers' barracks, hoping to find someone brave enough to tell us what was going on. There were only two people there, a worker and someone from a village adjacent to the area the company is destroying. The truth of what was happening rolled out: there was no land clearing today because yesterday some people from the community had attacked the workers as they destroyed the forest.
It appears that the company has spurred a land conflict with the community from the adjacent village. We know of many cases of these kinds of social conflicts, particularly when Sinar Mas is involved, and they often become very violent — the villager did not want us to get him on record saying this.
Again, Lady Luck smiled upon us. A guy appeared who introduced himself as an elder from the village and a victim of the conflict. He was willing to be interviewed. According to him, one guy tricked several of the villagers into giving him their letters of land ownership, which he then gave to the company. He had said they would develop the land into a community rubber plantation, but then a big palm oil plantation appeared instead.
We not only had our evidence but also an insight into how the company is operating in the area. Exhausted, we headed back to base and by midnight were preparing the fresh visual evidence of Sinar Mas breaking its promises to stop this sort of destruction. We want to make sure it cannot get away with telling its lies again.
We knew a lot depended on our investigation and that a lot rested on us getting this evidence out to everyone — we had until morning to get it to Singapore, where our team had arranged a press conference in advance of Sinar Mas’ AGM, as well as out to our Greenpeace offices around the world so that we can show everyone what this company is up to in the rainforest.
Joko on location collecting evidence of new forest clearing by Sinar Mas.
The evidence got to our press conference on time, where international media outlets and journalists were able to see it, but we also wanted to make sure we shared it with you, our online supporters.
We want Nestlé to stop buying palm oil from destructive companies like Sinar Mas. Since we launched our Kit Kat campaign, Nestlé has canceled its direct contract with Sinar Mas but it still buys palm oil from the company via Cargill. Nestlé says it expects Cargill to decide whether it will sever its contracts with Sinar Mas by the end of this month.
We’re not against palm oil plantations but we can’t let companies like Sinar Mas get away with destroying our rainforests. With this evidence, how can Nestlé justify carrying on buying Sinar Mas palm oil unless the company genuinely cleans up its act?
One of the biggest days of the year for corporate CEOs is the annual shareholder meeting. It's their chance to trumpet successes, inspire investments in their company, and look forward to the year ahead. For Nestle executives at their shareholder meeting today, things were anything but rosy as Greenpeace activists took the company to task for buying palm oil linked to the destruction of endangered orangutan habitat.
The day started with a surprise at the German headquarters of Nestle. A giant screen atop a cargo truck appeared outside the building displaying real-time Twitter messages from people all over the world urging the company to protect Paradise Rainforests. Greenpeace activists also redecorated the building itself, deploying a giant banner that covered four stories of offices. Oversized messages from countless rainforest supporters streamed across the digital screen all day long.
The day didn't end there. At the Nestle shareholder meeting in Switzerland, huge numbers of displaced orangutans showed up and conducted a mass "die-in" in front of crowds of onlookers. It's safe to say that the free Nescafe coffee Nestle was passing out tasted a bit sour at the sight of orangutans being dragged across the concrete by police.
Participants seeking a distraction on their smartphones and computers were surprised when they logged onto a free wireless network only to find a webpage encouraging them to send a message to Nestle about rainforest protection and orangutans. It's amazing what you can do with technology these days! ;-)
Inside the venue, things got even more interesting. As Nestle board chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe and Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke addressed the crowd, they had to deal with competition for the spotlight. Undetected activists dropped two banners from the rafters in front of the stage reading: "Give the orangutans a break!" The banners remained in plain view during keynote speeches -- a constant reminder to executives, investors and the press that Nestle has a growing problem with its links to rainforest destruction
We know the company is feeling the heat -- the company has made public statements in an attempt to blunt our campaign. But they need to hear loud and clear that empty words and half measures won't keep rainforests standing. Business as usual needs to end if we are to save orangutans and their rainforest homes...and we'll keep campaigning until that happens!
If you want to get in on the action, you can tell Nestle to protect rainforests and remove Sinar Mas' unsustainable palm oil from their supply chain right now.
Here's the video:
Her death, in time, provided a tragic illustration of the role that cattle ranchers can play in the Amazon. On April 22, 2005, Sister Dorothy was shot in cold blood by two men hired by a cattle rancher. A biographer described the murder thus: “Her hired assassins…found her in the forest…When they asked if she carried a weapon, she reached into her bag and produced a Bible…Then they shot her.”
For decades, cattle ranchers have been setting the rainforest aflame and replacing it with grazing lands for cattle. Every 18 seconds or so, another hectare of forest is lost in this way. In fact, cattle ranches now occupy 80% of deforestated area in the Brazilian Amazon.
These ranchers know that this destruction brings quick profits. The beef and leather products that come from their cattle can be exported around the world; they may end up in the hands of consumers from Britain to China. Thanks to the recent expansions, Brazil is now the world’s largest exporter of beef; it claims the largest commercial cattle herd in the world.
But the expansion of cattle ranches has come at the expense of the rainforest—and the expense of those who live in it, work in it, and defend it. Ranchers grab lands from poor farmers and impinge upon indigenous reservations. They use slave laborers on isolated ranches. And they have a history of intimidating, threatening, and murdering those who dared to defy them. Sister Dorothy’s death is only one example; 772 people were killed in land disputes in the Brazilian state of Para between 1972 and 2007.
These ranchers have operated with impunity in a region where enforcement can be difficult and officials are often corrupt. Few ranchers are ever held accountable for their crimes. As of 2007, only eight of the 772 murder cases had gone to trial.
While the forest is not safe, there has been progress. Last spring, Greenpeace released the “Slaughtering the Amazon” report, which detailed the deforestation created by the expansion of cattle ranching in Brazil. In the wake of that report, major brand-name companies like Nike, Adidas, Clarks, and Timberland sent a simple message to their suppliers: Clean up your act, or we’ll drop your contracts. Last fall, Greenpeace was able to declare victory on that campaign after all four of the largest cattle companies in Brazil (JBS, Bertin, Marfrig and Minerva) agreed to a moratorium on further expansion in the Amazon.
The first step in implementing the moratorium is the mapping and registration of all the ranches that directly supply these slaughterhouses. This is a vital task. Without mapping and registration, it’s impossible to know who is operating in the Amazon and whether or not they have continued to destroy the Amazon to make room for grazing cattle. All the ranches in the Brazilian Amazon must be mapped and registered before truly effective law enforcement and deforestation monitoring can take place. Only then can we bring an end to the deforestation, land grabbing, and violent acts perpetrated by cattle ranchers. Greenpeace is continuing to pressure slaughterhouses to ensure that this all-important task is completed.
And on April 12th, Vitalmino Bastos de Moura was convicted for Sister Dorothy’s murder and sentenced to 30 years in prison. This offers hope that in the future, those fighting to protect the forest will not be tragically silenced. As Paulo Adario, director of Greenpeace’s Amazon campaign, said of the conviction: “It's obviously a sign that the times of violence without consequence are ending”.
A gathering place for community members and international forest advocates alike, here is what the Climate Defenders Camp looked like before the suspected arson blaze:
Please support Greenpeace activists and community volunteers in Indonesia by standing up to violence and intimidation, and saying no to deforestation and peatland destruction. Take action and share this story with others. International attention is needed to protect the safety of forest advocates working on the front lines to save Paradise.
This incident shows that when growing demand for commodities like palm oil is not paired with corporate responsibility, greed, corruption and violence can flourish alongside rainforest destruction. This suspected act of arson also underscores the importance of companies like Nestle — the ultimate users of commodities that are driving Paradise forest destruction — cleaning up their supply chains and being vocal advocates for comprehensive political solutions. Even if you've sent a message before, take a minute to tell Nestle that we need rainforest and peatland protection now!
A press release from the Greenpeace Paradise Forest team in Indonesia is below. You can also read more from the Jakarta Post here.
Greenpeace will continue fight for Kampar Protection despite camp burning down
Jakarta, 12 April 2010: Greenpeace today stated that the burning down of the Climate Defenders Camp in Riau’s Kampar Peninsula this weekend will not stop it from campaigning with the local community to stop the destruction of the area’s forests and carbon-rich peatlands. The Climate Defenders Camp was built in October 2009 with community help in the run up to the Copenhagen climate summit to highlight the cost of forest destruction to the climate, local communities and biodiversity.
“The fire which has partially destroyed the camp is a set back but we are now more committed than ever to helping the local community fight the destruction of the Kampar. We are redoubling our efforts to save Indonesia’s environment and make sure that the forests and peatlands of Kampar Peninsular Forests are fully protected,” said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace Southeast Asia Forest Campaign Team Leader.
The fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning and flames were spotted by villagers across the Kampar river in Teluk Meranti. The fire severely damaged the main hall and prayer room but there were no injuries. Initial investigations by the local police indicate that the fire was started deliberately. Greenpeace has reported the case to Riau Province Police Headquarters, urging them to investigate the case seriously and rapidly,” added Bustar.
The Kampar peninsula is one of the largest peatland areas in the world and is under threat of destruction from pulp-and paper companies APRIL and APP. The camp has been visited by a host of international guests, like the US ambassador to Indonesia and French movie star Melanie Laurent. In November, using the camp as base, Greenpeace took action against the ongoing clearance of peatlands by APRIL, blocking the company’s excavators and exposing the company’’s illegal activities. Not long thereafter, Minister of Forestry Zulkifli Hasan ordered APRIL to stop clearing practices in the area, while their permits where under investigation.
The people of Teluk Meranti have been very supportive of the Greenpeace campaign and have organised a thousand-signature petition to reject the expansion of APRIL into the forests in the Kampar. “We need Greenpeace to help us protect the forest against the company because the company has everything — money, power, and political influence" said Pak Yusuf, Teluk Meranti community leader.
The Greenpeace campaign will not stop until the Kampar is fully protected. “We welcome President Yudhoyono’s statement last week that asked NGO’s like Greenpeace to work together with the government to save Indonesia’s environment. As a first step, we urge the President to immediately implement a moratorium on deforestation and peatland destruction,” Maiter concluded.
*Please note that while our international campaign urging Nestlé to stop using palm oil made from destruction of Paradise Forests is centered on a spoof of the Kit Kat brand, in the United States Kit Kat is actually licensed to Hershey Foods Corporation. Our report, “Caught Red-Handed: How Nestlé Use of Palm Oil is Destroying Rainforests and the Climate,” does not examine Hershey Foods Corporation palm oil sourcing. Popular Nestlé brand products that are sold in the US and contain unsustainable palm oil include PowerBar, Nestlé Crunch Crisp, and CoffeeMate.
It's three weeks since we launched our Nestlé campaign and, thanks to the fantastic support we've received, it's going from strength to strength. Nestlé's Facebook page is still dominated by questions about where the company gets its palm oil from. It seems that every attempt by their admins to change topic is another opportunity to turn the conversation back to deforestation linked to palm oil and other ethically questionable practices. Meanwhile, our Kit Kat video has sailed past an incredible 1.1m views.
But what's going on in Indonesia? After all, that's where the forests we're trying to protect are located. Well, the work our Indonesian team is doing is somewhat different. Rather than focusing mainly on a large consumer company, they're tackling suppliers directly and challenging the government of Indonesia about deforestation.
The email updates coming from our colleagues in Jakarta show that we're having an effect in political circles.
The president of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has been talking a lot about forests this week. He talked tough about the "mafia in illegal logging", and commissioned a taskforce to investigate the corruption which is endemic in the industry and which contributes to the clearance of rainforest to make way for palm oil and pulp and paper plantations.
Personally, I was surprised to read that he's also been specifically praising Greenpeace and other pressure groups for criticizing the government's policy on forest management. In a special press conference earlier this week, he also asked for more cooperation between government and organisations like Greenpeace to help protect Indonesia's environment.
ust after the president's statement, our Indonesian team received a request for a meeting with his adviser, where we were joined by other environmental and social NGOs. At the meeting it was explained to the advisor how the president should tackle deforestation: with a moratorium on converting the forest into agricultural land, as well as protecting Indonesia's peatlands.
Well, words don't always translate into action, and Yudhoyono is known for making impressive environmental statements but not following through on his promises. Still, he has pledged to reduce Indonesia's emissions (third largest in the world) by 26 per cent by 2020. As a large proportion of those emissions come from deforestation, reaching that target inevitably means getting serious with the loggers and the agriculture giants who are tearing down forests and burning peatlands.
There's also been a spectrum of reaction from other Indonesian ministers. The agriculture minister said he will work with the palm oil industry to clear its name, and is planning a lobbying tour of Europe to promote Indonesian palm oil. The trade minister has called for an independent investigation into our claims, which is nice. Equally nice to hear the environment minister agreeing that Nestlé had every right to cancel their contracts with Sinar Mas; apparently he would have done the same as well.
Speaking of Sinar Mas, that giant in Indonesia's agriculture sector and rampant destroyer of forests: the company has issued a press release (pdf) announcing it will commission its own independent investigation into our report. Call me cynical, but I don't think I'll be the only one questioning exactly how independent this investigation will be. To me, it sounds like a delaying tactic to draw attention away from the many laws Sinar Mas is currently violating.
We still need you to email or call Nestlé — they're no doubt waiting to hear from you.
Following the release of a new report, Greenpeace activists around the world are taking action to tell Nestle – the largest food and drink company in the world – to stop sourcing palm oil from rainforest destroyers. Send your own message to Nestle and help spread the word!
The new report: “Caught Red Handed: How Nestle’s Use of Palm Oil is Having a Devastating Impact on Rainforest, the Climate and Orangutans” exposes how Nestle’s growing use of palm oil is linked to companies involved in the destruction of forests and peatlands in the Paradise Forest region of Southeast Asia.
The Paradise Forests are one of the most important, but highly threatened, tropical forests on the planet. Boasting world-famous wildlife diversity, the rainforest islands of Paradise are home to critically endangered orangutans, Sumatran tigers, and spectacular birds found no where else on Earth. But with a world-record breaking deforestation rate, there’s not much time to protect their habitat.
That’s why Greenpeace is hitting hard and moving fast. Seven hours after the campaign launch this morning, Nestle has taken a small step in the right direction. In a statement released this morning from its headquarters in Switzerland, the food and drink giants said that it will stop buying palm oil directly from notorious rainforest destroyer Sinar Mas group.
But, that’s not the end of the story. This action by Nestle is long-overdue and doesn’t address the big palm oil problems facing the company. Nestle gets a lot more palm oil from Sinar Mas
and other destructive suppliers through traders--companies like Cargill that combine, refine and distribute palm oil to corporate customers. So, with your help, Greenpeace will continue to push Nestle cut Sinar Mas from its supply chain completely and become a public advocate for peatland protection and a moratorium on forest destruction for palm oil.
In the meantime, clearly worried about their brand image, Nestle petitioned YouTube to remove the new Greenpeace campaign video "Have a break?" due to a copyright claim. If Nestle is really concerned about its corporate image, it should prioritize cutting its links to rainforest destruction instead!
This move has not stopped Greenpeace from spreading the message, you can now view the video on Vimeo below.
Note that the (startling!) video plays off Nestle’s popular, palm oil filled Kit Kat candy bar. Greenpeace is using this video outside of the U.S. because in this country, Kit Kat is licensed to and made by Hershey’s. While the Hershey’s version of Kit Kat also includes palm oil, our new report does not investigate the company’s palm oil sourcing. With that in mind, view the spoof advertisement to show Nestle you don’t like rainforest destruction or their meddling with YouTube videos!
And, most importantly, spread the word and send a message to Nestle today!
The Logjam project would allow logging of 3,422 acres on Prince of Wales Island, which has already been subject to heavy logging since the 1950s. In order to move an estimated 73 million more board feet of timber out of the area, 22 miles of new roads would be built. This means that yet again the Forest Service is allowing an ill-conceived timber project to move forward despite the fact that it greatly imperils wildlife like the Islands wolf, the wolves’ primary prey, Sitka black-tailed deer, and local salmon populations.
The following series of images shows the character of the forest already impacted by previous logging (plus natural fragmentation and lower quality forest), followed by the same shots with logging unit boundaries drawn in by hand by our own intrepid Alaska-based forest campaigner, Larry Edwards, as accurately as possible from project maps.
You can check these images out in a larger format here. Read a whole bunch more about the lawsuit and the environmental laws that are violated by the Forest Service's flawed environmental impact statement (EIS) here.
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