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 Fight rainforest destruction!
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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
Activists protest BlackRock’s ‘hot air’ on climate change

In a series of demonstrations after BlackRock’s annual shareholder meeting today, activists in New York City, San Francisco, and London staged socially distanced protests to criticize the financial giant’s failure to live up to its rhetoric on climate change.

Golden Veroleum Liberia Lays Off Workers, Endangers Communities, Highlighting Failure of Industrial Plantation Model

Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL), a palm oil company operating in Liberia since 2012, announced recently that it is laying off 440 workers – about a tenth of its workforce – due to unsustainable losses and the falling price of palm oil.

Groups call on Harvard University to stop land grabs as new report exposes harm done to communities in Brazil

Rural communities in Brazil are suffering from food shortages, chemical pollution and violent human rights abuses because of large land deals made by Harvard University in the years following the 2008 financial crisis.

Latest Blog Posts See All
In Crisis, Learning from Ecologies of Care
In Crisis, Learning from Ecologies of Care

As we face this crisis, there are important lessons we can learn to build the future we want to see as we recover. One of those lessons should be that transforming our relationship with the natural world may be our best bet for safeguarding our future.

We need our tropical forests more than ever
We need our tropical forests more than ever

Our violent disregard for biodiversity and our own part in the web of life has generated a perfect storm of global proportions. When the world returns to normal – if the world returns to normal – let’s use this time to think about which parts of normal we want to…

The Case for Deforestation Free Investing
The Case for Deforestation Free Investing

Who wants to retire into a world blazing with wildfires, raging with floods, and boiling over with mass discontent?

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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