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Land Grabbing, Forests & Finance

One of the fastest growing drivers of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, and displacement of forest-dwelling communities is the expansion of monoculture palm oil plantations across the tropics for the production of food, fuel, and cosmetics. The expansion of palm oil plantations has led to massive forest destruction and social conflicts that pit plantation companies against indigenous groups and local communities – and too often fracture and divide these communities.

Deforestation driven by industrial agriculture is second only to fossil fuel combustion as a leading driver of global climate change. In turn, key drivers of this trend include investments in large-scale land acquisitions (often referred to as ‘land grabbing’), the rapid rise in both commodity prices and commodity speculation, and the exponential growth of biofuel use and investment — trends that will continue unless curbed through targeted action.


In recent years there have been very effective campaigns to get consumer companies to trace their palm oil from the retail shop back to the plantations where it’s grown, and to then eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from global supply chains. But more effort is needed to drive these campaigns home – as well as to “follow the money” to prevent banks and investors from financing dirty palm oil.

Because the palm oil industry is financed in part by investment firms in the U.S. and Europe, dirty palm oil linked to deforestation and conflict could be in your retirement fund, your mutual fund, your IRA, or your school’s endowment.

Join the movement to fight deforestation by calling on U.S. investment firms to #DefundDeforestation and commit to human rights by implementing Deforestation and Land Grab-Free Investment policies. U.S. investment firms, including the firms that manage pension funds for many government and university employees, are among the largest financiers of palm oil. That means that we have the power to use our stake in the palm oil industry to bring about change.

  • Forests Tell BlackRock: Stop supporting environmental destruction and human rights violations!
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  • Forests Stop a hydro dam from wiping out the newly discovered species of orangutan
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  • Forests Tell TIAA to defund deforestation!
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Impact Stories See All
A Victory for Forests: Cargill Cuts Ties with Palm Oil Producer
A Victory for Forests: Cargill Cuts Ties with Palm Oil Producer

Friends of the Earth and our allies have pushed businesses and corporations to cut ties with abusive and destructive palm oil companies.

Nestlé Cuts Ties With Conflict Palm Oil
Nestlé Cuts Ties With Conflict Palm Oil

More than 40,000 Friends of the Earth members signed our petition urging Nestlé to cut ties with REPSA. And Nestlé responded.

Your Money & Deforestation

As part of our campaign to #DefundDeforestation, we host DeforestationFreeFunds.Org – a search platform that enables people to find out if their money, in the form of individual investments or an employer-provided 401(k), may be causing tropical deforestation through investment in companies that produce, consume, or finance palm oil – the fastest growing cause of rainforest destruction today. DeforestationFreeFunds is a great place to start to find out of your money is financing forest destruction.

We’ve also mapped the top 10 U.S. investment firms with funds in palm oil production, and are campaigning to urge these firms to defund deforestation by adopting four pillars of responsibility:

to disclose their exposure to deforestation and land risk in palm oil and other commodities;

to commit to a deforestation and land grab-free investment policy;

to exclude bad actors and advocate for responsible financing;

to repair the damage and ensure justice for affected communities, and support only companies that restore ecological damage as part of their commitment to forests.

To learn more, read our report: Are You Invested in Exploitation? Why US investment firms should quit financing conflict palm oil and commit to human rights

Is Your 401 OK?

For many of us, the majority of our investments are in 401(k) plans offered by our employers. These 401(k)s invest mostly through mutual funds and exchange-traded funds (ETFs). But those funds can invest in a wide array of securities, and it’s not always easy for investors to investigate what’s inside the funds they own. You can spend hours poring over mutual fund prospectuses, and still not fully grasp everything your 401(k) is invested in.

Your retirement money may be invested in financially and morally risky palm oil plantation companies.

Talk to your 401(k) plan manager about offering Deforestation Free 401k fund options.

Latest News See All
Press Advisory: Senate Briefing on Private Investment as Driver of Deforestation and Climate Change

With growing concern over the impacts of climate change and related financial risks to U.S. investors, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Friends of the Earth and Amazon Watch will host a briefing on private investment as a driver of tropical deforestation and related material financial risks to U.S. investors.

Palm Oil Company Golden Veroleum Liberia’s Departs from RSPO, Raising Red Flags for Investors

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.

CalPERS Investment Policy a Victory for People and the Planet

Under the new policy, CalPERS will become the first large asset manager in the U.S., public or private, to formally recognize that deforestation and ecosystem degradation pose material investment risks; the first to acknowledge “land rights” as an issue requiring disclosure by companies; and the first to ask companies how…

Latest Blog Posts See All
Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe: Four Takeaways from this Sunday’s New York Times Article
Palm Oil Was Supposed to Help Save the Planet. Instead It Unleashed a Catastrophe: Four Takeaways from this Sunday’s New York Times Article

Staff at Friends of the Earth worked closely with the reporter, ProPublica’s Abrahm Lustgarten, to share background information and analysis, supply contacts in Indonesia and bring him along on public events we hosted at the U.S. Senate and the San Francisco climate summit. Here are four takeaways from the article.

Major palm oil company execs arrested for bribery in Indonesia
Major palm oil company execs arrested for bribery in Indonesia

Earlier this week Reuters reported on a bribery scandal in Indonesia that has resulted — so far — in the arrests of seven people, including senior executives of palm company Sinar Mas Agro Resources and PT Binasawit Abadi Pratama.

Is S&P Dow Jones greenwashing conflict palm oil?
Is S&P Dow Jones greenwashing conflict palm oil?

In its annual listing of sustainable companies released last month, S&P Dow Jones Indices included Golden Agri-Resources, a palm oil company financing operations in Liberia.

Featured Resources See All
  • Climate of Risk: Executive Summary
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  • Invested in Exploitation? TIAA’s Ties to Land Grabbing and Deforestation
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  • Are You Invested in Exploitation?
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Resources See All
  • How Palm Oil Poses Material Risks to Investors
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  • The Importance of Land Rights for Investors in Agribusiness
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  • Environmental Social and Governance Policies of the Top U.S. Financiers of Palm Oil
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