Oreo cookies and Gillette shaving cream are among products driving the destruction of Indonesia’s forests, Greenpeace said Tuesday, accusing agri-giant Wilmar International of supplying “dirty palm oil” to make the grocery items.
In its report “Licence to Kill”, Greenpeace said that Singapore-based Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil processor, was sourcing its oil from illegally cleared land and destroying the habitat of critically endangered Sumatran tigers.
“Until Wilmar commits to a no-deforestation policy, their trade of palm oil to big household brands... makes consumers unwitting accomplices in the extinction of Indonesia’s 400 remaining Sumatran tigers,” said head of Greenpeace’s Forest Campaign in Indonesia, Bustar Maitar.
Wilmar supplies more than a third of the world’s palm oil, according to the company’s website, and Greenpeace said Wilmar’s oil can be found in Oreo cookies, Gillette shaving cream and Clearasil face wash, among an array of grocery items in more than 50 countries.
The report accused Wilmar of continuing to source palm fruit from plantations on illegally cleared land within Sumatra island’s protected Tesso Nilo National Park, prime tiger habitat.
It also called on Wilmar to take responsibility for a fire that hit the permit area of another of its suppliers in June, when blazes swept through Sumatra’s forests for weeks, covering Singapore and Malaysia in a blanket of hazardous smog.
Indonesian officials said most fires, which sent high levels of carbon into the atmosphere, were deliberately lit to clear forested land and grow palm oil. Wilmar denied suggestions its supplier had deliberately lit land-clearing fires, saying in a statement the blaze was on a plantation that was likely ignited by surrounding flames.
“We are currently reviewing our business practices, including our sourcing policy, working with certain international supply chain experts,” Wilmar spokesperson Lim Li Chuen told AFP.
The company said it had issued “a stern reminder to all staff” of its policy to only source palm fruit grown legally and that any supplier trying to sell illegally grown fruit would be “dropped altogether”.
Greenpeace said that around one million hectares of tiger habitat had already been designated by the government for production purposes, urging Wilmar to protect forest that lie within its permit zones.
A forest area designated to a Wilmar subsidiary for production is a crucial corridor for the tiger and other endangered animals to move from one part of the island to another in order to survive, Greenpeace said.
“The challenge is on for Wilmar and its customers to clean up their act,” Maitar said.
Wilmar is the latest company to be targeted by Greenpeace, which has taken aim at several high-profile firms and campaigned for responsible consumer spending.
Nestle and paper giant Asia Pulp & Paper have pledged zero-deforestation policies after Greenpeace exposed their unsustainable practices.
The palm oil sector is the largest driver of deforestation in Indonesia, home to around 10 percent of the world’s tropical forest, where illegal logging is rampant.
Deforestation in Sumatra has increased the Sumatran tiger’s contact with humans, leading to poaching and more tiger attacks, resulting in both tiger and human deaths, Greenpeace said.
The government has suspended the issuance of new land-clearing permits for certain types of forest for more than two years in a carbon-cutting scheme, backing by $1bn from Norway under a UN scheme.
Indonesian government figures show that land-use change and forest degradation account for 85 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the country.