Indonesia’s second biggest palm oil company stops clearing of rainforests
Rainforest Foundation Norway and the Forest Heroes alliance welcome an announcement of an immediate moratorium on forest clearance by Astra Agro Lestari, the large Indonesian palm oil company connected to Mandarin Oriental Hotels.
The move comes less than a month after the global launch of the She’s Not a Fan campaign, a play off of Mandarin’s "She’s a Fan" celebrity endorsement drive. An investigation showed the luxury hotel group’s connection to deforestation.
The investigation, with photos and drone video footage of the company’s operations, is available online at www.ShesNotAFan.org.
Astra has released a public statement saying that it "has today introduced an immediate moratorium whereby it will stop all land conversion" and "will ensure that there will be no clearance of any natural forest either by the Company or any of its contractors across all its operations in Indonesia".
"We commend Astra for moving quickly to respond to concerned citizens and investors around the world. The moratorium is a critical first step to protect Indonesia’s rapidly disappearing rainforests. Astra now needs to bring transparency to its work by joining other companies in disclosing its plantation locations and those of its suppliers", said Vemund Olsen, Senior Policy Adviser with Rainforest Foundation Norway.
Astra stated that it is "now in the process of formulating a detailed sustainability policy" to comply with the industry standard for No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation that has been adopted by traders like Wilmar and Musim Mas who buy from Astra. The implementation of such a policy would require the company to work with technical experts to carry out assessments of High Conservation Value (HCV) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas utilizing the methodology outlined in the HCS toolkit, as well as protecting peatlands and recognizing community land rights prior to future development.
Astra’s director, Joko Supriyono, also stated that the company supports joining the Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a group of major palm oil companies that have all adopted zero-deforestation policies, calling it "an important initiative for Indonesia".
The alliance also urged the company to restore an area of forest and peat equivalent to what it has cleared in the past. It urged Astra to use its substantial influence in Indonesia to support comprehensive government reforms. Supriyono is head of the powerful Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Association, GAPKI, and in that role has been a leading voice for weakening forest conservation measures.
"It’s time for Astra and Jardines to become a force for conservation and responsible development in Indonesia and around the world", said Forest Heroes chairman Glenn Hurowitz.
Mandarin Oriental is majority owned by the British conglomerate Jardine Matheson. Mandarin’s chairman Ben Keswick is also the Managing Director of Jardines and commissioner of Astra Agro Lestari. Norway’s pension fund invests 540 million USD in Jardine Matheson and related companies.
"Just a few weeks ago, Astra was considered one of the most irresponsible companies on the planet. People were taking action from London to New York to say that they weren’t fans of the company’s destruction", said Hanna Thomas, palm oil campaigner with SumOfUs.org.
"This announcement is a true testament to the power of concerned citizens and investors demanding change. People around the world and endangered elephants are celebrating today, but we will be watching closely to ensure that lasting change is made on the ground."