Indonesia’s second largest palm oil producer fails to deliver on its sustainability policy

NGOs deem Astra Agro Lestari’s implementation of sustainability policy far too slow; question the company’s intentions to fully adhere to its commitments.


Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia’s second largest palm oil company, has failed to address several key gaps in implementing its sustainability policy that were identified in an assessment by several Indonesian and international NGOs last September. The NGOs — Rainforest Foundation Norway, Mighty, KKI Warsi, Yayasan Merah Putih Palu (YMP), and SumOfUs — sent Astra a letter last Thursday asking for a swift response to these gaps and other critical remaining questions. Astra already missed a December 5th deadline for providing this information which was originally requested in a letter dated September 26th. Soon after, Astra did reply asking for another meeting with the NGOs. While appreciating the answer, the NGOs are not satisfied.

– We want to see a detailed implementation plan and adherence to deadlines. There’s been enough talk, now we want to see real action, said Anja Lillegraven, Head of the Asia and Oceania Department of Rainforest Foundation Norway. Astra’s failure to implement its own policy is unacceptable and demonstrates that nice policies are not enough.

Astra’s sustainability policy was announced in September 2015, following a major campaign that included the release of a report documenting massive deforestation and human rights violations within Astra’s concessions. The campaign also involved grassroots actions around the world aimed at Astra’s owner, the large conglomerate Jardines Matheson, and their luxury hotel chain, the Mandarin Oriental.

Astra’s failure to implement key aspects of the policy is reflected in these quotes from key NGO stakeholders:

– Astra’s attempts at resolving conflicts and compensating human rights violations, as pledged in the policy, are far from satisfactory, said Diki Kurniawan, Director of KKI Warsi, an Indonesian NGO that advocates for the rights for the Orang Rimba. Members of the Orang Rimba indigenous group in Jambi Province are still living on the edge of starvation after they lost their land to Astra’s palm oil plantation.

– As the dry season is fast approaching, we fear that Astra lacks good systems for preventing fires, said Fatah Sadaoui, Palm Oil Senior Campaigner, SumOfUs.

– We question the intentions of Astra. No detailed implementation plan has been provided, indicating that Astra is not allocating sufficient resources into its sustainability work, said Anja Lillegraven, Head of the Asia and Oceania Department of Rainforest Foundation Norway.

– Astra has not published quarterly updates on the implementation of its sustainability policy, as pledged, said Amran Tambaru, Director of Yayasan Merah Putih Palu, an Indonesian NGO that advocates for indigenous rights.

– While Astra has curtailed deforestation on its own concessions, it has failed to demonstrate that it has adequately addressed high risk third-party suppliers like PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya (PT ANJ) which was recently caught deforesting at a large scale in Papua, said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty. We strongly recommend Astra’s owners and investors to seriously consider the reputational risk represented by links to Astra.

– The time for delay and excuses is over. This is a final warning to Astra that we demand to see real action, said Ms. Lillegraven.