Quantcast
Animals
Palm oil survivors. Wildlife Photographer of the Year / Aaron Gekoski

The Palm Oil Industry Promises Reform, But There’s Still No Sign of Change

It was 10 years ago that Greenpeace first published an investigation into Indonesia's palm oil industry.

We showed that the world's biggest brands got their palm oil from companies destroying Indonesia's rainforests—threatening local people as well as tigers and orangutans.


As people learned the truth about their shampoo, cosmetics and chocolate bars, brands and their suppliers started to feel the pressure. In 2013, Wilmar became the first palm oil trader to adopt a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy. Others followed suit, and by the end of 2014, most household brands and big palm oil companies had sworn to protect Indonesia's rainforests.

Greenpeace doesn't take companies at their word—we watch them closely to make sure they're keeping their promises. A couple of years ago, we investigated household brands and weren't that impressed with what we found. So this year, we took a look at the biggest palm oil traders—the companies that brands get their palm oil from.

The results are alarming. Not one of the traders could prove it wasn't buying from palm oil companies that destroyed rainforests. Most could not even say when there would be no deforestation in their supply chains. Instead of cutting out dirty palm oil, traders have a 'don't ask, don't tell' policy—they pretend everything is under control while Indonesia's forests go up in smoke.

Indonesia's people and environment are paying for the industry's failure. The country has lost 31 million hectares of forest—an area almost the size of Germany—since 1990. A recent study on Borneo and Sumatra orangutans showed that the population has significantly declined, with destruction of their habitat a leading cause of the crisis. Forest destruction has also contributed to the annual fires and haze crisis that threatens the health of people across Southeast Asia. One study estimated that the 2015 fires crisis contributed to more than 100,000 premature deaths. NGOs have also uncovered widespread human rights abuses in palm oil plantations, including child labor and worker exploitation.

This should be a wake-up call for brands like PepsiCo, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mondelez. These brands promised their customers they would cut ties with forest destruction. For too long, brands have passed the buck to their suppliers—the traders whose progress we assessed and found wanting.

It's time brands took responsibility for the palm oil they're using. The first step is to tell us where their palm oil really comes from. Then brands need to clean up their supply chains and cut out anyone still destroying forests. That's the only way we'll get this destructive industry to change.

Thankfully it's not all bad news. Just a few weeks ago, scientists discovered a whole new species of orangutan in Sumatra! This is an amazing discovery—but like the rest of the orangutan population, there's a big risk that their habitat gets destroyed. It's up to us to make sure that these amazing creatures have healthy branches to swing on in the future.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
In a recent expedition, Gaelin Rosenwaks found plastic in the Great Blue Hole in Belize. Lomingen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Inspiring Interview Urges You to Cut Plastic Consumption

2018 was the year for plastic pollution awareness. One good aspect of the plastic crisis is the fact that we can solve it. Getting involved with solutions is an easy way to have our voices heard globally.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Proterra is one of several companies manufacturing electric buses in California. Jeffrey D. Allred

Buses Are the Electric Vehicle Everyone Should Be Talking About. Here's Why.

By Adrian Martinez

Dean Florez is preparing for what he calls "one of the biggest votes I've ever taken" as an air regulator at an influential agency with national clout.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
A river cleanup in Union County, New Jersey. Paige Bollman / CC BY 2.0

Want to Help Endangered Species? Here’s How to Take Action Locally

One of the questions people ask me most often is what they can do locally to help endangered species. Well, I recently appeared on the Green Divas podcast to talk about that very subject. We discussed the horror of lawns, the danger of cars, great ways to volunteer, and other efforts you can take to make your neck of the woods a little bit safer for rare plants and wildlife.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Southern Resident killer whale mother and her calf swimming. NOAA

Washington Gov. Proposes 'Herculean Effort' to Save 74 Remaining Southern Resident Orcas

With only 74 left in the wild, the Southern Resident orca population in Puget Sound needs help now more than ever. That's why on Thursday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee's office announced "an unprecedented investment" to help boost the population as well as the Chinook salmon they eat.

"We are undertaking a herculean effort to save these iconic creatures. It will take action at every level of the environment across our entire state," Inslee said in a news release. "We need to restore the ecosystem to one that sustains orcas, salmon and the quality of life for all Washingtonians."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Amber Lamoreaux / Pexels

Major UK Supermarket to Ban Glitter From Own-Brand Products

British supermarket Waitrose announced Friday that it will ban glitter from its own-brand products by Christmas 2020.

The upscale retailer said its labels, wrap, flowers, plants and other single-use items will either be glitter-free or use an environmentally friendly alternative.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Natural pine trees can liven up Christmas and the environment when they are replanted after. Cavan Images / Getty Images

5 Ways to Have a Green Christmas (and Help the Planet)

It's pretty common this time of year to hear the song White Christmas, but at EcoWatch we want folks to have a green Christmas. With a couple of tips, you can make sure your winter festivities have a smaller carbon footprint. Here are five ways you can have a more environmentally friendly holiday.

1. Give Green Gifts
Share your love of the planet by giving gifts that are good for the environment. Need ideas? The EcoWatch staff rounded up their favorite gifts, and USA Today highlights items such as iTunes gift cards, reusable straws, organic wine and non-toxic cosmetics in their story about purchasing green presents.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Kingborough Council

Tasmania Builds Road From Single-Use Plastics, Glass and Printer Toner

A local government in Tasmania found a clever way to recycle single-use plastics and other landfill-bound waste by building a new road.

The 500-meter (1,640-foot) stretch outside the city of Hobart is made of approximately 173,600 plastic bags and packaging, as well as 82,500 glass bottle equivalents diverted from landfill, the Kingborough council announced Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Alchemy Goods / Bambaw / LuminAID

EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!