Palm Oil Company Golden Veroleum Liberia’s Departs from RSPO, Raising Red Flags for InvestorsYears of allegations of deforestation, land grabbing and human rights violations catch up with palm oil company
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a palm oil company operating in Liberia since 2012, last week voluntarily suspended its membership in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — the sustainability certification body for the industry. GVL’s decision comes after the RSPO rejected the company’s appeal of a ruling that GVL violated RSPO’s Principles and Criteria.
A February 2018 decision by the RSPO Complaints Panel confirmed a series of ongoing violations by GVL, including failure to implement adequate free, prior and informed consent procedures, destruction of sacred sites and coercion and intimidation of community members to sign agreements with the company.
The company’s decision to leave the RSPO also follows the release of a new report, High Risk in the Rainforest, by Friends of the Earth groups, which found that GVL violated its own policies and those of international palm oil buyers by destroying globally-significant, high-density forests, including critical chimpanzee habitat in southeastern Liberia. The report reveals GVL cleared at least 380 hectares of High Carbon Stock forests and High Conservation Value area, alongside human rights violations.
Liberian civil society organizations point out that GVL’s concession contract with the government of Liberia requires the company to be in compliance with RSPO principles. GVL’s controversial practices, alongside its abandonment of the RSPO, call into question the sustainability of the company’s operations in Liberia. GVL’s primary investor, Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources, is the world’s second largest palm oil company, with financial ties to some of the world’s leading financial firms, including BlackRock, Vanguard, TIAA and Citibank. GVL’s operations not only violate RSPO Principles and Criteria, but also Golden Agri-Resources’ sustainability policies which apply to all of its downstream investments.
Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner for Friends of the Earth US, issued the following statement in response GVL’s decision:
Since its arrival in Liberia in 2012, Golden Veroleum Liberia’s operations have been fraught with consistent and well-documented cases of environmental destruction and a thorough disregard for communities’ land rights. The company’s decision to leave the RSPO raises serious questions about its respect for international human rights norms and for Liberia’s fragile rainforest ecosystems.
This decision should raise red flags for investors that face ongoing material risk related to tropical deforestation. Investors must conduct proper due diligence related to this case, review their existing financial ties with GVL and GAR and address the inherent risks of investment in the palm oil industry.