New Evidence Shows Palm Oil Giant Flouting Rules to Prevent Indonesian Forest Fires

One of the world’s largest producers of palm oil appears to have defied instructions from the Indonesian government to stop practices that could cause a repeat of the extreme forest and peat fires of 2015, a new investigation has revealed.

In November last year, the Ministry of Environment prohibited the palm oil industry from planting commercial crops on already burned land and instructed companies to ensure primary canals are blocked to prevent land being drained.

Evidence unearthed by a Greenpeace Indonesia field investigation in April suggests that IOI has in fact violated these new rules.

Cargill Stands Alone

This comes as IOI seeks to rejoin the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) — this week it dropped the lawsuit over its revoked sustainability certification.

It is thought likely to lobby the group to undo its suspension at a European palm oil conference in Milan this week.

Since the RSPO’s decision in March, the company’s share price has tanked, its credit rating has been placed under review and — perhaps most damning — its major customers are in the process of cancelling contracts.

US food giant General Mills is the latest in a string of household names ditching IOI purchases and claiming it will not renew the relationship until it demonstrates real progress in protecting and restoring the areas it has damaged.

Pressure is now mounting on US agriculture company Cargill — the last major holdout — to follow suit.

Broken Promises

The new report — Burning Issue — lists a string of broken promises, most notably a commitment in January 2014 to refrain from draining all areas of peat on its land.

But there is clear evidence that since then canals have been dug to drain peat in PT Bumi Sawit Sejahtera (PT BSS), one of IOI’s concessions in West Kalimantan, part of Indonesian Borneo.

Dry peat is extremely flammable, and it’s no surprise that large parts of this concession went up in smoke in both 2014 and 2015.

The impacts of this drainage extend…

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