Consumer Goods Giants Line Up to Suspend Destructive Palm Oil Company for Land Grabbing, Human Rights AbusesColgate-Palmolive, Hershey’s join Procter & Gamble, Nestlé in suspending business with Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia’s second largest palm oil producer
WASHINGTON – This past week, four of the world’s largest consumer goods companies – most recently Hershey’s and Colgate-Palmolive, as well as Procter & Gamble and Nestlé – announced they have suspended business with palm oil company Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) due to land grabbing, human rights violations, and environmental destruction in Indonesia. This comes after two years of public campaigning by WALHI and Friends of the Earth US and over a decade of resistance from Indigenous and frontline communities, farmers, and Land and Environmental Human Rights Defenders.
“Consumer companies must stay engaged and use their leverage to require AAL to pay for losses and damages caused to communities during nearly 25 years of operations in Sulawesi,” said Aulia Hakim, Head of Advocacy at WALHI Central Sulawesi. “These powerful multinationals should make it clear that retaliation against community leaders and farmers will not be tolerated. There should be no further violations of communities’ rights who are defending their lands. The Indonesian government must be rigorous in its enforcement of existing laws and hold AAL and its subsidiaries accountable for violating laws and regulations and driving human rights abuses.”
WALHI and Friends of the Earth US first raised concerns in 2020 over abuses by AAL subsidiaries in Central and West Sulawesi, through dialogue with Procter & Gamble, which buys palm oil from AAL despite its public sustainability policies. Evidence published in a March 2022 report led to an independent investigation affirming that AAL subsidiaries were operating on communities’ land without their consent and criminalizing local farmers and Environmental Human Rights Defenders.
Last month, dozens of organizations sent a letter to consumer companies demanding they immediately suspend AAL from their supply chains, which Friends of the Earth then delivered to members of the Consumer Goods Forum during New York Climate Week.
Consumer goods companies including Mondelēz, Kellogg, Unilever, PepsiCo, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, and L’Oreal continue to do business with AAL in clear violation of international human rights laws and frameworks, companies’ policies, and industry best practice. AAL and its parent companies Astra International and Jardine Matheson Group receive significant financing from asset managers BlackRock and Vanguard.
“Consumer goods giants must recognize that the dominant model of industrial agricultural production is predicated on environmental destruction and land theft,” said Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Land Rights Campaign at Friends of the Earth US. “Year after year, the world watches in horror as forests from Borneo to Brazil burn while Indigenous Peoples’ rights are trampled. We see through the façade of so-called ‘sustainability’ schemes, as agribusiness steals land from communities and ravages the world’s last standing forests. It’s time that companies and investors heed growing calls for a just transition away from industrial agribusiness.”
The recent decision by companies to suspend sourcing from AAL comes ahead of Procter & Gamble’s annual shareholder meeting on October 11. Friends of the Earth US, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) are calling on P&G’s shareholders to vote against the re-election of three members of the company’s board – who have deep ties to environmentally destructive corporations like Monsanto, ExxonMobil and Chevron – for their failures to address climate risk, deforestation, forest degradation, and human rights violations in the company’s palm oil and pulp supply chains.
Communications contact: Brittany Miller, (202) 222-0746, [email protected]