Months ago, forest destroyer Sinar Mas told industry peers that it would formally respond to issues raised by a Greenpeace report. After mountains of bad press and losing business, many had hoped the palm oil, paper, and coal giant would use this moment to come clean, admit mistakes and move forward to improve its business.
Unfortunately, Sinar Mas is not showing any signs of doing that.
Sinar Mas was meant to publish an audit into its own activities by the end of June. They baulked and postponed until late July. Now, they are saying it will be August 10th.
In the meantime, Sinar Mas has hired PR firm Bell Pottinger to help present their greenwash. Bell Pottinger recently did public relations work for Trafigura, the oil trading company who was recently convicted and fined for illegally transporting toxic waste to the Ivory Coast. Classy clientele!
Anticipating that Sinar Mas will try to greenwash the results of their flawed audit, Greenpeace just released (more!) fresh evidence that notorious forest destroying practices continue unabated and in direct violation of the company’s own environmental commitments on protecting forests and peatlands. The report, Empires of Destruction, contains evidence that Sinar Mas is clearing rainforest and peatland areas on the island of Borneo. Further photographic evidence shows Sinar Mas recently cleared rainforest orangutan habitat. While Sinar Mas talks about protecting rainforests and peatlands, its actions speak louder, and tell a different story.
But, it is not just what Sinar Mas has done in the past that should cause alarm – it is what it plans to do in the future. In addition the report details how Sinar Mas plans to expand its empire of destruction even further. Last week, the Sinar Mas palm oil division, Golden Agri Resources, confirmed plans to expand into an additional 2.5 million acres
With wildlife like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger being pushed towards extinction, the Paradise Forests cannot afford to continue to be the victim of Sinar Mas’s ever expanding empire.
The good news is that Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, HSBC, and other prominent companies are distancing themselves from Sinar Mas. Until Sinar Mas is no longer involved in destroying rainforests and peatlands, other companies who still purchase from them – like fast food companies Burger King, Dunkin’ Donuts and Pizza Hut – should take similar measures. Take a moment now to tell those companies to stop serving up forest destruction!
For the forest,
Good news! Thanks to people like you and the hard work of some dedicated orangutans, HSBC – the world’s largest banking and financial services company – has dropped forest-destroyer Sinar Mas from its investment management funds.
While this is bad news for Sinar Mas, which has seen a growing list of companies like Nestle, Unilever and Kraft distance themselves from the company, it is good news for Sumatran tigers, orangutans and other wildlife that call the Paradise Forests their home.
HSBC banks from California to New York were visited by activist orangutans in June. As described in a previous post, the furry red apes monkeyed around at bank branches, amusing onlookers and drawing attention to the fact that HSBC had been passing the buck on forest destruction. They helped flood HSBC headquarters with phone calls and email messages, adding to the excellent work of Greenpeace activists in the UK (where HSBC is headquartered). You can read about this victory in a story published by the Guardian newspaper.
And, check out this video put together by a superstar activist in Los Angeles:
There’s still a little to be worked out with HSBC. For example, the bank should make sure its forest policy applies to all areas of their business to avoid loopholes. HSBC has a review scheduled for September to decide whether to exclude other palm oil companies from its Climate Change Fund, where some of those Sinar Mas shares were held. We'll be keeping tabs on the process and will let you know how it turns out.
In the meantime, pat yourselves on the back and take a moment to enjoy a bit of good news.
For the forests,
On July 6th, the Brazilian Forest Code, the law which regulates the use of the Amazon rainforest, has suffered the most serious setback in recent history. For years NGOs like Greenpeace, scientists and civil society have been fighting to protect the legislation from being hijacked by corporate interests. Those efforts were threatened when a major revision of the laws was proposed earlier this year.
With the final vote by the Special Commission set up for this purpose being 13 to 5 in favor of the changes, the bill is now set to be discussed in the Brazilian Chamber of Representatives later this year. However, the fact that this will delay the process until after the Presidential elections in October is hardly a reason to celebrate. In fact, the upcoming Presidential elections could have disastrous consequences for the passage of the bill. Several politicians are expected to trade approval to the proposed legislation for votes and political support from the powerful agricultural sector during the upcoming campaign.
Those political realities put the Forest Code in immediate danger. Under the existing law, landowners are required to set aside 80% of their lands as Legal Reserves in the Amazon. This protection is now at stake. If the proposed bill becomes law, that area would be reduced to a mere 50% which would legalize the clearing of enormous amounts of forest. For more on the history and importance of the Brazilian Forest Code, check out our recent blog post and watch Greenpeace's Amazon Campaign Director Paulo Adario speaking on the issue:
Agribusiness, the energy sector and producers of biofuels have been pushing for more deforestation in the future. But it is not their future business prospects alone that these interest groups are worried about. They also are concerned about their past crimes. One of the most outrageous changes is related to the prosecution of those who have broken the existing Forest Code. The new bill includes a clause granting amnesty to environmental crimes like illegal deforestation committed in areas of permanent preservation before July 22nd, 2008. This means that fines and other penalties imposed before this date will be suspended if the proposed legislation passes.
Although pressure and actions by Greenpeace and others have lead to some last-minute changes, the bill remains more than just flawed. While it does not leave the regulation of deforestation completely in the hands of the states anymore, it still contains several loopholes. State governments, which have always been more receptive to pressure groups, will be able to allow deforestation when they believe public interests to be at stake or when they think that the environmental impact is considerably small.
The overall impact of the proposed changes, however, is anything but small. This is why Greenpeace is urging politicians to repeal the proposed changes and not pass the new Forest Code.
If you're a fan of forests, you've probably heard a lot recently about the Greenpeace Paradise Forest campaign. In particular, you may have heard about the giant conglomerate Sinar Mas which dominates the palm oil industry in Indonesia. Greenpeace has documented Sinar Mas repeatedly breaking industry guidelines, Indonesian law and its own public statements, razing rainforests to the ground in its race to produce palm oil. The growing controversy around their role in destroying rainforests crucial to endangered wildlife like orangutans and Sumatran tigers has led companies like Nestle, Kraft and Unilever to start cutting Sinar Mas palm oil out of their supply chains.
Sinar Mas is a huge conglomerate, and palm oil is only one of its businesses...and only one of the ways it destroys rainforests. Asia Pulp & Paper – it’s giant paper branch – is one of the largest paper companies in the world, and one of the worst threats to rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands in Indonesia.
A new Greenpeace report released today exposes the destructive practices of APP and shines a light on the companies that are still doing business Sinar Mas. The report also counters recent APP greenwash, including its claim that its suppliers “only develop least valuable degraded forests and denuded [barren] wasteland.” Pulping the Planet shows that the company is still sourcing from critical orangutan and Sumatran tiger habitat such as the Bukit Tigapulu Forest Landscape and Kerumutan Peat Forest. The report details how that rainforest and peatland destruction is also causing huge amounts of climate pollution.
You can read the report here (you’ll need Adobe Reader and some patience to download the report since it’s a pretty big file).
The report also draws attention to companies like Pizza Hut, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts that Sinar Mas listed as key global customers in 2009. With leading food companies like Nestle, Kraft and Unilever taking action to sever business ties with rainforest-destroying companies, you have to wonder what fast-food companies are waiting for...are they waiting for activist orangutans to show up at their door? That could be arranged!
Give fast food companies a wake up call. Click here to tell them to stop serving up rainforest destruction!
For the forests,
In Brazil, moves are afoot to amend a piece of legislation that has been protecting the Amazon rainforest for over 70 years, and not for the better. If the changes are voted through, it could mean that the area of the Amazon which can be legally destroyed will double, and it's the backers of these changes — the agriculture, biofuels and energy barons — who stand to benefit as they argue that pesky forest laws are a hindrance to economic development.
Believe it or not, Brazil's forest code is a wonderfully progressive piece of legislation, in theory protecting huge areas of rainforest (whereas in practice, the problems of policing such a vast area and associated corruption means that there's plenty of illegal logging going on).
It's been around in one form or another since 1934, and was significantly improved by the previous president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The deforestation rates in 1995 were so abominably high that the following year, he amended the code to increase what's known as the legal reserve — the amount of forest on a farm or settlement which must be protected — from 50 to 80 per cent.
Over the last 10 years, there have been over 30 attempts to undermine the code (here's a previous effort we reported on), all of which have failed to make any significant changes. But now another effort is underway to roll back the legal reserve to 50 percent, spearheaded by Aldo Rebelo, a politician who is painting the concept of forest protection as a conspiracy by the developed world to restrict Brazilian development. This chimes nicely with the demands of the big agribusiness corporations who want to expand further into what they see as land with undeveloped potential.
Lots of other insidious alterations are currently being discussed, including an amnesty on anyone guilty of illegal logging before July 2008. But it's the 50 percent marker which will do the most damage if it gets through.
Our researchers, together with IPAM (the Amazon Environmental Research Institute), estimate that the area of rainforest which can be legally cleared could double, so around 85 million hectares (over 210 million acres) could vanish. Imagine England and France squished together — that's how big 85m hectares is, and given that only (only — ha!) 73m hectares (over 180m acres) have been lost to date, that's a hell of a lot.
So what's happening? The Brazilian congress will vote on the package of changes this week and, although there are several more political hoops to jump through before it becomes law, if the Brazilian congress votes in favor of the changes, the weakened forest code will be one step further to being approved.
It's also an election year in Brazil and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will be stepping down as president. During his term of office over the last seven years, deforestation in the Amazon has plummeted, and Lula has made commitments to further reduce deforestation as well as slash Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions. If the amendments go through, both of these ambitions will be in tatters, not to mention Lula's legacy, and the impacts on the health of our planet will be devastating.
What may look like a national issue is one of global importance — the influence the Amazon rainforest has on climate and water cycles stretch far beyond its official boundaries, and the greenhouse gas emissions which will be the true bounty from further deforestation will affect us all.
We're not asking your help at the moment, but if it looks like the new forest code is getting closer to becoming law then we may well ask you to take action to save the Amazon rainforest.
HSBC, one of the world’s largest financial institutions, has attempted to position itself as an environmentally responsible bank. They have a policy not to invest in companies that destroy rainforests. They offer customers a mutual fund that invests in companies offering climate solutions. But, HSBC has a big problem. Their Global Climate Change Fund invests in Sinar Mas, one of the worst rainforests destroying, climate polluting company on the planet!
Believe it or not, Sinar Mas was included in the climate fund with flawed rationale that their palm oil could be turned into a climate-friendly biodiesel. But, as Greenpeace has repeatedly pointed out, Sinar Mas destroys Paradise rainforests and carbon-rich peatlands to make room for its palm oil plantations, often breaking industry standards and Indonesia law in the process.
In the United Kingdom, Greenpeace exposed this dramatic contradiction to the London-based bank and in the press, but HSBC leadership in London passed the buck. They said their forest policy did not apply to funds they managed, only their direct investments. And they said there wasn’t sufficient data to indicate whether Sinar Mas palm oil biodiesel was bad for the climate. Huh?
In the US, we decided to help motivate the bank with creative activism. In San Francisco on Tuesday, orangutans showed up on the busy sidewalks in the heart of the financial district. They, along with their human friends, distributed hundreds of flyers to passersby, and inspired people to make calls to HSBC headquarters. The orangutans and their friends ended their visit to HSBC with a rousing song entitled “Oh, HSBC” (sung to the tune of “Oh Christmas Tree”).
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
Green “Climate Fund” now that’s a gas
You’re investing in dirty Sinar Mas
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
Orangutans running out of luck
They need your help, but you pass the buck
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
You have a forest policy
But you weasel out with technicalities
Oh, HSBC, oh HSBC
You’re banking with hypocrisy
Catchy isn’t it?
On Thursday, orangutans visited an HSBC bank in Silicone Valley on the sunny streets of Palo Alto. Within moments of a banner unfurling and an orangutan “die-in” (orangutans sprawled out, lying on the sidewalk) bank management called the police. But, since our orangutans were well-behaved and well versed in their rights to free speech and assembly, they were allowed to stay on site, spreading the word and attracting supportive honks from passing motorists…much to the dismay of HSBC management.
Where will the activist apes show up next? HSBC will have to wait and see! In the meantime, send your message to HSBC by clicking here.
Our campaign to achieve zero deforestation in the Paradise Forests continues to gain momentum. After moving Nestle to cut deforestation out of its supply chain in just eight weeks, we are pleased to see movement on the political front as well. This morning, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced a two-year moratorium on new forest and peatland destruction. The commitment came in advance of the governments of Indonesia and Norway signing a $1 billion deal in Oslo to develop capacity to implement strategies to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD).
This is the first major international support for a REDD deal since the disappointing UN climate talks in Copenhagen last December. And its big news for the climate since Indonesia is the world's third largest greenhouse gas polluter after the U.S. and China because of the destruction of its rainforests and peatlands. Expectations are now rising for President Obama to build on the announcement made by Indonesia and Norway.
How does REDD work? While the details of REDD policies can be confusing, the basic idea is simple: industrialized nations pay developing nations to keep tropical forests standing in order to protect our climate and the diversity of life that benefits us all.
If the money is sufficient and used in the right way, it can drive systemic changes, help overcome corruption, and aid in the development of long-term solutions. If the money is not well spent, or if inadequate safeguards for things like local communities, Indigenous peoples and wildlife are not in place, REDD schemes can subsidize business as usual and be little more than greenwash.
The announcement by the Indonesian President is good news, and we should be cautiously optimistic that this could be the start of new cooperation between governments to tackle rainforest destruction and climate pollution. But, it is only a first step, and there are uncertainties and missing pieces left to deal with.
For example, the moratorium announcement does not deal with the vast areas already under concessions to companies like Sinar Mas and APRIL – it only applies to new concessions not yet granted. That means we still need to pressure consumer companies and retailers to reject products linked to rainforests and peatland destruction.
Also, it is unclear when the moratorium actually takes effect. If it starts in 2011, as stated in some press, it could spark a rush by forest-destroying companies to grab as many concessions as they can now. This would be a terrible consequence from an announcement that is supposed to be good for forests. If they are serious about slowing deforestation, the governments of Norway and Indonesia should make sure the moratorium is effective immediately.
In addition, we must remember that the Paradise Forests include important rainforests outside of Indonesia in places like Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and other nations not yet party to a deal like the one unveiled in Oslo today.
Another question is: will Obama step up to help Indonesia reach zero deforestation as quickly as possible? If a small Scandinavian country of less than 5 million people can pledge $1 billion to save some of the world’s most important forests, what will the United States do?
That question will soon be answered. President Obama is returning to Indonesia, a country he lived in for four years as a child, in mid-June. Millions of acres of pristine rainforest have been slashed, burned, logged and destroyed since he was a boy. Now that he is President, Obama has a unique opportunity to protect Indonesia’s remaining rainforests and peatlands. Take action now encourage him to build on, and improve the first steps established by the Norwegian/Indonesian announcement.
For the forests,
Canada! Where Greenpeace started. Canada! Where the Greenpeace Forest Campaign started. Canada! Home to the world’s largest timber industry! Canada! Now home to the biggest eco-regional land use planning process in history!
|Read more, check out a slideshow, video, and find links to full documentation about the Boreal Agreement|
On the table will be 277,992 sq miles of boreal forest – that’s like one Texas plus one New Hampshire put together! Of that, 111,969 square miles of prime habitat will be immediately placed in 100% moratoria – that’s like one Nevada and one Rhode Island put together. No logging, no road building, no nothing.
To be clear, today’s agreement is an agreement to START a three-year negotiation process. For the next three years Greenpeace and a bunch of other environmental groups will be negotiating with a consortium of 21 logging companies. Seats will soon be filled by First Nation representatives, too. A 100-something page framework for talks has already been agreed with 60 something measurable milestones that must be met along the way – all monitored by an independent 3rd party.
Download map as PDF
For you older folks or students of history, think of the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement as the giant, oversized child of the Great Bear Rainforest Agreement which is today considered the global hallmark of conservation agreements. The Great Bear multi-stakeholder, eco-regional land use planning process was a first-of-its-kind, unprecedented achievement with huge conservation gains, as all logging is mandated to meet or exceed FSC standards. This new Boreal Agreement, if the 3-year negotiation process succeeds, will be the same thing … only much, much bigger.
Will it be a 3-year hair-pulling, teeth-grinding fight? Hell yeah! Friendships will be gained and strained. Some may turn to the bottle. But mark my words, we’re gonna win it. We’re not negotiating from scratch. A lot of important “givens” are already built into the process.
Thanks to everyone who ever did anything to help any Boreal forest campaign! Now the real work begins. Wish us luck.
This is great news for our environment in what has otherwise been a bleak few weeks. President Obama continues to dig in (or drill in) and stand firm behind his plans to increase offshore oil drilling despite the BP Deepwater oil disaster and continues to work to lift the ban on commercial whaling.
In the midst of it all, Nestle's recent act is a refreshing act of leadership.
Here is why this matters: 17 percent of global-warming pollution comes from deforestation. Brazil and Indonesia are among the four most polluting countries (with China and the U.S.) because cutting trees releases carbon pollution.
To address the main driver of deforestation in Brazil -- cattle ranching -- Greenpeace worked with Nike, Wal-Mart, Timberland, and other companies to pressure their suppliers to stop grazing cattle on recently deforested land.
In Indonesia, palm oil and pulp plantations are both driving deforestation and pushing orangutans to the brink of extinction. After being caught red-handed, Nestle has committed to identify and exclude companies from its supply chain that own or manage "high-risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation." This exclusion would apply to companies such as Sinar Mas, Indonesia's most notorious palm-oil and pulp-and-paper supplier, if it fails to meet the criteria set out in the policy. It also has implications for palm oil traders, such as Cargill, which continue to buy from Sinar Mas.
Read more at Grist.com >>
What’s sweeter than a candy bar? The new pledge by food giant Nestle to cut forest destruction out of its products and out of its supply chain. In just weeks, a global Greenpeace campaign has transformed Nestle from a company driving rainforest destruction through its use of palm oil, to one pioneering an ambitious new policy to ensure its products have a zero deforestation footprint.
With its new policy, Nestle commits to identify and exclude companies from its supply chain that own or manage “high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation.” This would apply to the notorious Sinar Mas group, a palm oil and paper conglomerate that Greenpeace has repeatedly caught destroying Paradise rainforests. It also has implications for Cargill, a Nestle palm oil supplier which purchases from Sinar Mas. In short, companies can either stop destroying rainforests, or they will stop having Nestle’s business.
While this victory came swiftly, there was a lot of work leading up to it. For years, Greenpeace has worked to achieve major breakthroughs with some of the world’s largest users of palm oil including Unilever, Kraft and other giant consumer product companies. Despite this, Nestle – the largest food and drink company in the world – was dragging its feet. To motivate them, Greenpeace launched a global campaign on March 17th targeting the company and exposing its links to Paradise Forest destruction.
Within a few hours of the campaign launch and publishing of our Caught Red-Handed expose, Nestle agreed to cancel its direct business contracts with Sinar Mas.
But, that was a relatively small move for Nestle – most of the palm oil they purchase comes from third-party traders. We had to keep the pressure on the company. Thanks to supporters and activists like you around the world, we did just that.
The support online has been overwhelming. The edgy “Have a Break” campaign video removal from YouTube sparked an online uproar and video reposting to Vimeo, driving 100,000 online views within the first 24 hours. Within weeks, the video had been viewed more than 1.5 million times!
Facebook was another key online arena for the campaign, where a steady stream of pressure was applied to Nestle via comments you posted on its Facebook page. The response was so overwhelming, it incapacitated Nestle’s page, spiraling into an online PR disaster for the company. The Wall Street Journal, among other international media, was prompted to declare that “Nestle Takes a Beating on Social-Media Sites.”
The power of social media combined dramatically with our direct actions to deliver the message directly to Nestlé at events like its annual shareholder meeting on April 15th. Outside the meeting venue, investors and executives were greeted by protesting orangutans as they arrived. Inside, our activists hid in conference center's cavernous rafters, then dropped down on banners over executives heads telling Nestle to stop destroying rainforests. You can read more about those dramatic actions in one of my previous blog entries.
Despite its new commitments, Nestle has plenty of work to do to implement its policy. You can rest assured Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure it does.
Greenpeace will also be making it clear that other large companies and retailers must take steps to clean up their palm oil and pulp and paper supply chains. The Nestle policy does not mean the problem is fixed. Rather, it is a model and starting point for other companies to build on.
Governments need to get involved as well to make sure actions by companies are not short-circuited, and to ensure long-term protections for the Paradise Forests. President Obama is going to Indonesia in June and is expected to address forest issues while there. Tell him to encourage Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to protect peatlands and create a moratorium on forest destruction immediately. Click here to take action!
Also, spread the good news about this huge victory to friends on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace!
For the forests,
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