50+ groups urge brands to cut ties with destructive Indonesian palm oil

50+ groups urge consumer brands to cut ties with destructive Indonesian palm oil company

Indigenous and community organizations demand Procter & Gamble, members of the Consumer Goods Forum stop enabling illegal deforestation, human rights abuses

WASHINGTON – Over 50 Indigenous Peoples, civil society and community-based organizations from around the world sent an open letter to household consumer brands today demanding they immediately suspend Indonesia’s second largest palm oil company, Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), from their supply chains and work to redress the grievances of impacted communities. 

The letter is directed at the “Forest Positive Coalition” of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) – a consortium of the world’s top consumer brands – ahead of its meeting during NYC Climate Week, where companies are set to discuss their commitments to end commodity-driven deforestation and related human rights abuses.

The release of the letter follows a Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing Monday by Friends of the Earth and NRDC. The filing asks Proctor & Gamble shareholders to vote against the re-election of three members of the company’s board of directors for their failure to address unsustainable sourcing of wood pulp and palm oil from climate-critical forests in the Canadian boreal and southeast Asia, and for failing to address associated human rights risks.

“Consumer companies that source from AAL should suspend purchases of palm oil and use their leverage to redress grievances and resolve ongoing conflicts with communities,” said Hadi Jatmiko, Head of Campaign Division of WALHI National Executive. “These powerful global brands have a responsibility to stand up for farmers, local communities, and workers that have suffered environmental damage and loss of their lands and livelihoods at the hands of AAL. If consumer companies do not do this in a span of three months, we can infer that their commitments are really a sham.” 

A report released in March by Friends of the Earth U.S. and WALHI, Indonesia’s largest environmental advocacy organization, implicated AAL and its subsidiaries in environmental destruction, human rights violations, land-grabbing and violence against local communities in parts of Indonesia. Despite extensive documentation of these abuses, at least 17 global brands, many being members of the CGF “Forest Positive Coalition,” have failed to suspend palm oil sourcing from AAL.

“Companies pay lip service to human rights while their supply chains drive land grabbing and violence against Indigenous communities,” said Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner at the Friends of the Earth U.S. “Powerful brands are willfully ignoring evidence of human rights and environmental violations while proclaiming themselves champions of ‘sustainability.’ Their words ring hollow as long as their business model is predicated on violence and exploitation.” 

The letter lays out the demands for AAL, including effective grievance mechanisms, noncompliance protocols and the adoption of human rights policies and procedures that ensure zero tolerance for violence, intimidation, murder and criminalization of Human Rights and Environmental Defenders.  

International frameworks, such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, mandate that these consumer companies (including Procter & Gamble, Hershey’s, Kellogg’s, Unilever, Nestlé and PepsiCo) have a responsibility to address AAL’s flagrant and persistent violations of Indonesian and international human rights laws and standards. The letter calls not only for these companies to suspend sourcing from AAL, but also to ensure that ongoing conflicts with communities are resolved and redress is provided in accordance with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The CGF previously committed to ending deforestation in its supply chains by 2020 — a deadline they failed to meet. By continuing to drive environmental and human rights violations through their business models, CGF companies are exacerbating the climate crisis, while casting doubt on the sincerity of their climate and human rights commitments.

Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]

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