Telling outright lies over and over again to consumers until they are believed as truth
Greenwashing by Lying
Blatant lies that appear in advertising or on social media. The lie could be falsifying support from respected authorities or individuals on environmental issues. Or the lie could be research with ambiguous results being made to sound positive. Sometimes, it is a clear and obvious lie.
#Greenwashing Tactic #7: Lying: Telling outright lies to #consumers until they are believed as truth. #palmoil lobbyists and global food companies lie about ‘sustainable’ #palmoil #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashingTweet
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RSPO certification protects endangered species living in tropical rainforests
The team from Chester Zoo encourage children to save endangered species by buying sustainable palm oil.
Lyrics: ‘We have a choice – and it’s sustainable palm oil’
Michelle Desilets, Manager of Orangutan Land Trust explains in this video that ‘deforestation is prohibited by the RSPO’.
What she does not mention is that none of the RSPO’s members have actually stopped deforestation in the 17 years since it began.
“In the plantation, the calls of birds and beasts are replaced by a deathly silence, which is particularly eerie in the glaring heat of the midday sun. Sounds of life are replaced by sounds of death—roaring bull-dozers, gnawing chainsaws, the crackle of illegal burning, and the rumble of overloaded trucks carrying oil palm fruit and timber.”.~ Dr Sophie Chao. In the Shadow of the Palms, pp. 45.
Currently certified grower supply bases and concessions in Sumatra and Borneo are located in large mammal’s habitat and in areas that were biodiverse tropical forests less than 30 years ago. We suggest that certification schemes claim for the “sustainable” production of palm oil just because they neglect a very recent past of deforestation and habitat degradation.Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Alena Velichevskaya, Certified “sustainable” palm oil took the place of endangered Bornean and Sumatran large mammals habitat and tropical forests in the last 30 years, Science of The Total Environment, Vol 742, 2020,
Oil palm plantations support much fewer species than do forests and often also fewer than other tree crops. Further negative impacts include habitat fragmentation and pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions.Emily B. Fitzherbert, Matthew J. Struebig, Alexandra Morel, Finn Danielsen, Carsten A. Brühl, Paul F. Donald, Ben Phalan, How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity?,
Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Vol 23, 2008, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2008.06.012.
We found that certified plantation concessions that are committed to deforestation-free production are limited in their ability to prevent further biodiversity loss, due to the past conversion of forest habitats to plantations. Concession holders can improve forest habitats through corridor development and other measures, which would mitigate, but not prevent, further biodiversity loss.
Hideyuki Kubo, Arief Darmawan, Hendarto, André Derek Mader,
The effect of agricultural certification schemes on biodiversity loss in the tropics,
Biological Conservation, Volume 261, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2021.109243.
We uncover the global patterns of oil palm expansion and find that global oil palm expansion has a very high degree of potential conflict with local biodiversity. Globally, 99.9% of oil palm plantations overlapped with Conservation Priority Zones (CPZs) and oil palm plantations encroached on 231 protected areas.Le Yu, Yue Cao, Yuqi Cheng, Qiang Zhao, Yidi Xu, Kasturi Kanniah, Hui Lu, Rui Yang & Peng Gong (2022) A study of the serious conflicts between oil palm expansion and biodiversity conservation using high-resolution remote sensing, Remote Sensing Letters, DOI: 10.1080/2150704X.2022.2063701
We found a high overlap between areas of high oil palm suitability and areas of high conservation priority for primates. Overall, we found only a few small areas where oil palm could be cultivated in Africa with a low impact on primates (3.3 Mha, including all areas suitable for oil palm). These results warn that, consistent with the dramatic effects of palm oil cultivation on biodiversity in Southeast Asia, reconciling a large-scale development of oil palm in Africa with primate conservation will be a great challenge.Small room for compromise between oil palm cultivation and primate conservation in Africa
Giovanni Strona, Simon D. Stringer, Ghislain Vieilledent, et. al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2018), 115 (35) 8811-8816; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1804775115
There was no significant difference was found between certified and non-certified plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated, however positive economic trends including greater fresh fruit bunch yields were revealed. To achieve intended outcomes, RSPO principles and criteria are in need of substantial improvement and rigorous enforcement.Morgans, C. L. et al. Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 064032, 2018.
“The big message is that oil palm is bad for biodiversity, in every sense of the word — even when compared to damaged rainforests that are regenerating after earlier logging or clearing.”Professor Bill Laurance, James Cook University. ‘Palm oil plantations are bad for wildlife great and small’. The Conversation.
We analyse consequences of the globally important land-use transformation from tropical forests to oil palm plantations. Species diversity, density and biomass of invertebrate communities suffer at least 45% decreases from rainforest to oil palm.Barnes, A., Jochum, M., Mumme, S. et al. Consequences of tropical land use for multitrophic biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. Nat Commun 5, 5351 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms6351
Palm oil also poses a global risk for zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19
Taking into account the human population growth, we find that the increases in outbreaks of zoonotic and vector-borne diseases from 1990 to 2016 are linked with deforestation, mostly in tropical countries, and with reforestation, mostly in temperate countries. We also find that outbreaks of vector-borne diseases are associated with the increase in areas of palm oil plantations.Outbreaks of Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases Are Associated With Changes in Forest Cover and Oil Palm Expansion at Global Scale
(2021) Morand Serge, Lajaunie Claire, Frontiers in Veterinary Science. https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fvets.2021.661063
Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire – Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)
Fire started within orangutan habitats and destroyed them – this was not investigated by the RSPO
‘Europeans have destroyed their forests for agriculture, so why can’t we do the same in the tropics? Stopping our economic development is hypocrisy and colonialism’
‘Sustainable palm oil helps the livelihood of workers on RSPO certified palm oil plantations.‘
Research analysing media and social media messages around palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia finds that palm oil lobbyists use an ‘Us’ Versus ‘Them’ narrative, in other words, they invoke colonial racism to justify continued deforestation and ecocide.
Four mutually complementary narratives were used by Indonesian and Malaysian media to construe denialism These denialist narratives appeal to a nationalist sentiment of ‘us’ – palm oil-producing developing countries – and ‘them’ – western developed countries producing research critical of the industry.Liu, Felicia & Ganesan, Vignaa & Smith, Thomas. (2020). Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Environmental Science & Policy. 114. 162-169. 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.07.004.
We had the luck to be born into a developed country, I believe we need to acknowledge the right of lesser-developed countries to develop. We simply have no right to tell a country like Indonesia to forgo economic development, but we can help to steer that development in a sustainable direction.Michelle Desilets, Director, Orangutan Land Trust. The Switch Report, 2014
Social media messaging by palm oil lobbyists reflects a focus on ‘Us’: poor, palm oil producing nations, versus ‘Them’: the ‘greedy, already developed West.
RSPO certification has not improved worker’s incomes, or stopped human rights abuses, illegal indigenous land-grabbing, violence and deaths on plantations since its inception 17 years ago
A 2021 Investigation by Global Witness found that palm oil companies in Papua New Guinea are alleged to have been involved in corruption, child labour, tax evasion, deforestation, worker deaths and paying police to assault villagers.
The palm oil from these mills in Papua New Guinea is used by RSPO members Colgate-Palmolive, Kelloggs, General Mills, Nestle, Hersheys, Danone, PZ Cussons – finds its way into our weekly supermarket shop.
A 2019 World Health Organisation (WHO) report into the palm oil industry finds extensive greenwashing of human rights abuses
Certified goods improve the price and income of sale for certified goods, but they do not advance equity, income or assets for workers
We find positive effects on prices and income from sale of certified products. However, we find no change in overall household income and assets for workers. The wages for workers are not higher in certified production.Oya, C., Schaefer, F. & Skalidou, D. The effectiveness of agricultural certification in developing countries: a systematic review. World Dev. 112, 282–312 (2018).
We find that, while sustainability standards can help improve the sustainability of production processes in certain situations, they are insufficient to ensure food system sustainability at scale, nor do they advance equity objectives in agrifood supply chains.Meemken, EM., Barrett, C.B., Michelson, H.C. et al. Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains. Nat Food (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-021-00360-3
Oil palm expansion is shaped by wider political economies and development policies.
Market-based development policies have favored large-scale over smallholder production.
Benefits from oil palm are unevenly distributed across rural population.
Violence across forest frontiers has fueled conflicts linked to oil palm.
Weak forest governance has led to significant deforestation by industrial plantations.A. Castellanos-Navarrete, F. de Castro, P. Pacheco,
The impact of oil palm on rural livelihoods and tropical forest landscapes in Latin America, Journal of Rural Studies,
Volume 81, 2021, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.10.047.
This article argues that the form of sustainability offered by certification schemes such as the RSPO fetishes the commodity palm oil in order to assuage critical consumer initiatives in the North. This technical-managerial solution is part of a larger project: the “post-political” climate politics regime (Swyngedouw) that attempts to “green” the status quo.Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228
- The palm oil industry is neither sustainable nor a viable development model.
- Certification represents a technical fix which neglects underlying dynamics of power, class, gender and accumulation.
- The fetishised commodity ‘certified sustainable palm oil’ has no impact on the regional scale of expansion.
- Working conditions in the plantations and mills entrench social inequality and poverty.
From: Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228
Deforestation for palm oil: the impact of increased heat on human health
477 villages throughout Kalimantan were surveyed about forest health benefits.
The most frequent answer was maintenance of cool local temperatures.
Perceptions were driven by deforestation and local temperature.
Results point to possible threat of heat impacts on health.
Policy should incorporate human health when considering land use.
Nicholas H. Wolff, Yuta J. Masuda, Erik Meijaard, Jessie A. Wells, Edward T. Game,
Impacts of tropical deforestation on local temperature and human well-being perceptions, Global Environmental Change, Volume 52, 2018, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2018.07.004.
“While RSPO is often referred to as the best scheme in the sector, it
has several shortcomings; most notably, it allows the conversion of secondary forests and the draining
of peatlands, it has not prevented human rights violations and it does not require GHG emissions
“In light of this, we call for action to reduce demand for palm oil, such as— The False Promise of Certification (2018) Changing Markets
ditching biofuels targets, as well as channelling new plantations into non-forested areas by putting in
place a strong moratorium on palm oil expansion to forests and peatlands. Most schemes in this sector
should be abolished in light of their failures on multiple fronts.”
MSI’s (Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives such as the RSPO and Rainforest Alliance) employ inadequate methods to detect human rights abuses and uphold standards
~ MSI Insight Report on Monitoring and Compliance in Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives (MSIs) like the RSPO (2020)
“MSIs put considerable emphasis on the standards that they set, but have not developed effective mechanisms for detecting abuses, enforcing compliance with those standards, or transparently disclosing levels of compliance. Despite the emergence of models that enable rights holders to legally enforce MSIs’ standards or to be actively engaged in monitoring companies for abuses, MSIs have not adopted them. By focusing on setting standards without adequately ensuring if members are following those standards, MSIs risk providing companies and governments with powerful reputational benefits despite the persistence of rights abuses.”
The difficulty of addressing and resolving oil palm conflicts is due not only to the inadequacies of Indonesia’s legal framework regarding land and plantations but also to the way in which Indonesia’s informalized state institutions foster collusion between local power holders and palm oil companies. This collusion enables companies to evade regulation, suppress community protests and avoid engaging in constructive efforts to resolve conflicts. Furthermore, this collusion has made the available conflict resolution mechanisms largely ineffective.Anti-Corporate Activism and Collusion: The Contentious Politics of Palm Oil Expansion in Indonesia, (2022). Ward Berenschot, et. al., Geoforum, Volume 131, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2022.03.002
Associated Press 2020 Report: Beauty Brands (RSPO members) L’Oreal, Colgate-Palmolive, Johnson& Johnson, Unilever linked to rape on palm oil plantations
“The expansion of oil palm plantations has created many detrimental environmental impacts, such as deforestation, loss of biodiversity, land conflicts, labour conflicts, and social conflicts around plantations.
“Environmental damage and social injustice were reasons why the global palm oil certification, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established.
“In practice, requirements for oil palm certifications are easily violated. Lots of things are problematic.”— Dr Setia Budhi, Dayak Ethnographer, In His Own Words.
Global corporates are responsible for the majority of palm oil production and deforestation risk, not smallholder farmers
The three biggest palm oil traders: Sinar Mas, Wilmar and Musim Mas – are founding members of the RSPO. They have the biggest deforestation risk of all other palm oil companies combined. Deforestation goes against the RSPO’s rules – yet these big companies do not lose their RSPO membership or face punishment.
Search the Environmental Justice Atlas for specific companies and their human rights abuses and land-grabbing record
RSPO: 14 years of failure to eliminate violence and destruction from the industrial palm oil sector
Friends of the Earth and 100 other human rights and environmental NGOS co-signed this letter in 2018
During its 14 years of existence, RSPO – the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil – has failed to live up to its claim of “transforming” the industrial palm oil production sector into a so-called “sustainable” one. In reality, the RSPO has been used by the palm oil industry to greenwash corporate destruction and human rights abuses, while it continues to expand business, forest destruction and profits.
RSPO presents itself to the public with the slogan “transforming the markets to make sustainable palm oil the norm”. Palm oil has become the cheapest vegetable oil available on the global market, making it a popular choice among the group that dominates RSPO membership, big palm oil buyers.
They will do everything to secure a steady flow of cheap palm oil. They also know that the key to the corporate success story of producing “cheap” palm oil is a particular model of industrial production, with ever-increasing efficiency and productivity which in turn is achieved by:
- Planting on a large-scale and in monoculture, frequently through conversion of tropical biodiverse forests
- Using “high yielding” seedlings that demand large amounts of agrotoxics and abundant water.
- Squeezing cheap labour out of the smallest possible work force, employed in precarious conditions so that company costs are cut to a minimum
- Making significant up-front money from the tropical timber extracted from concessions, which is then used to finance plantation development or increase corporate profits.
- Grabbing land violently from local communities or by means of other arrangements with governments (including favourable tax regimes) to access land at the lowest possible cost.
Those living on the fertile land that the corporations choose to apply their industrial palm oil production model, pay a very high price.
Violence is intrinsic to this model:
- violence and repression when communities resist the corporate take over of their land because they know that once their land is turned into monoculture oil palm plantations, their livelihoods will be destroyed, their land and forests invaded. In countless cases, deforestation caused by the expansion of this industry, has displaced communities or destroyed community livelihoods where
- companies violate customary rights and take control of community land;
- sexual violence and harassment against women in and around the plantations which often stays invisible because women find themselves without possibilities to demand that the perpetrators be prosecuted;
- Child labour and precarious working conditions that go hand-in-hand with violation of workers’ rights;
- working conditions can even be so bad as to amount to contemporary forms of slavery. This exploitative model of work grants companies more economic profits while allowing palm oil to remain a cheap product. That is why, neither them or their shareholders do anything to stop it.
- exposure of workers, entire communities and forests, rivers, water springs, agricultural land and soils to the excessive application of agrotoxics;
- depriving communities surrounded by industrial oil palm plantations of their food sovereignty when industrial oil palm plantations occupy land that communities need to grow food crops.
RSPO’s proclaimed vision of transforming the industrial oil palm sector is doomed to fail because the Roundtable’s certification principles promote this structural violent and destructive model.
The RSPO also fails to address the industry’s reliance on exclusive control of large and contingent areas of fertile land, as well as the industry’s growth paradigm which demands a continued expansion of corporate control over community land and violent land grabs.
None of RPSO’s eight certification principles suggests transforming this industry reliance on exclusive control over vast areas of land or the growth paradigm inherent to the model.
Industrial use of vegetable oils has doubled in the past 15 years, with palm oil being the cheapest. This massive increase of palm oil use in part explains the current expansion of industrial oil palm plantations, especially in Africa and Latin America, from the year 2000 onward, in addition to the existing vast plantations areas in Malaysia and Indonesia that also continue expanding.
On the ground, countless examples show that industrial oil palm plantations continue to be synonymous to violence and destruction for communities and forests. Communities’ experiences in the new industrial oil palm plantation frontiers, such as Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Peru, Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, are similar to past and ongoing community experiences in Indonesia and Malaysia.
For example, in its public propaganda, RSPO claims it supports more than 100,000 small holders. But the profit from palm oil production is still disproportionally appropriated by the oil palm companies: in 2016, 88% of all certified palm oil came from corporate plantations and 99,6% of the production is corporate-controlled.
RSPO also claims that the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is key among its own Principles and Criteria. The right to FPIC implies, among others, that if a community denies the establishment of this monoculture in its territory, operations cannot be carried out. Reality shows us, however, that despite this, many projects go ahead.
Concessions are often guaranteed long before the company reaches out to the affected communities. Under these circumstances, to say that FPIC is central to RSPO is bluntly false and disrespectful.
RSPO also argues that where conflicts with the plantation companies arise, communities can always use its complaint mechanism. However, the mechanism is complex and it rarely solves the problems that communities face and want to resolve.
This becomes particularly apparent in relation to land legacy conflicts where the mechanism is biased against communities. It allows companies to continue exploiting community land until courts have come to a decision. This approach encourages companies to sit out such conflicts and count on court proceedings dragging on, often over decades.
Another argument used by RSPO is that industrial oil palm plantations have lifted millions of people out of poverty. That claim is certainly questionable, even more so considering that there is also an important number of people who have been displaced over the past decades to make space for plantations.
Indigenous communities have in fact lost their fertile land, forests and rivers to oil palm plantations, adversely affecting their food, culture and local economies.
The RSPO promise of “transformation” has turned into a powerful greenwashing tool for corporations in the palm oil industry. RSPO grants this industry, which remains responsible for violent land grabbing, environmental destruction, pollution through excessive use of agrotoxics and destruction of peasant and indigenous livelihoods, a “sustainable” image.
What’s more, RSPO membership seems to suffice for investors and companies to be able to claim that they are “responsible” actors. This greenwash is particularly stunning, since being a member does not guarantee much change on the ground. Only recently, a company became RSPO member after it was found to deforest over 27.000 hectares of rainforest in Papua, Indonesia.
Certification is structurally dependent on the very same policies and regulation that have given rise to the host of environmental devastation and community land rights violations associated with oil palm plantations. These systemic governance issues are part of the destructive economic model, and embedded in state power.
For this reason, voluntary certification schemes cannot provide adequate protection for forests, community rights, food sovereignty and guarantee sustainability. Governments and financiers need to take responsibility to stop the destructive palm oil expansion that violates the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.
As immediate steps, governments need to:
- Put in place a moratorium on palm oil plantations expansion and use that as a breathing space to fix the policy frameworks;
- Drastically reduce demand for palm oil: stop using food for fuel;
- Strengthen and respect the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples to amongst others, self-determination and territorial control.
- Promote agro-ecology and community control of their forests, which strengthens local incomes, livelihoods and food sovereignty, instead of advancing industrial agro-businesses.
- Aalamaram-NGOAcción Ecológica, Ecuador
- ActionAid, France
- Arbres amics
- Amis de la Terre France
- ARAARBA (Asociación para la Recuperación del Bosque Autóctono)
- Asociación Conservacionista YISKI, Costa Rica
Asociación Gaia El Salvador
- Association Congo Actif, Paris
- Association Les Gens du Partage, Carrières-sous-Poissy
- Association pour le développement des aires protégées, Swizterland
- BASE IS
- Bézu St Eloi
- Boxberg OT Uhyst
- Bread for all
- Bruno Manser Fund
- CADDECAE, Ecuador
- Campaign to STOP GE Trees
- CAP, Center for Advocacy Practices
- Centar za životnu sredinu/ Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina
- CESTA – FOE El Salvador
- CETRI – Centre tricontinental
- Climate Change Kenya
- Coalición de Tendencia Clasista. (CTC-VZLA)
- Colectivo de Investigación y Acompañmiento Comunitario
- Collectif pour la défense des terres malgaches – TANY, Madagascar
- Community Forest Watch, Nigeria
- Consumers Association of Penang
- Corporate Europe Observatory
- Cuttington University
- Down to Earth Consult
- El Campello
- Environmental Resources Management and Social Issue Centre (ERMSIC) Cameroon
- Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria
- FASE ES , Brazil
- Fédération romande des consommateurs
- FENEV, (Femmes Environnement nature Entrepreneuriat Vert).
- Focus on the Global South
- Forum Ökologie & Papier, Germany
- Friends of the Earth Ghana
- Friends of the Earth International
- GE Free NZ, New Zealand
- Global Alliance against REDD
- Global Justice Ecology Project
- Global Info
- Gobierno Territorial Autónomo de la Nación Wampís , Peru
- Green Development Advocates (GDA)
- CameroonGreystones, Ireland
- Groupe International de Travail pour les Peuples Autochtones
- Grupo Guayubira, Uruguay
- Instituto Mexicano de Gobernanza Medioambiental AC Instituto Mexicano de Gobernanza Medioambiental AC
- Integrated Program for the Development of the Pygmy People (PIDP), DRC
- Justica Ambiental
- Justicia Paz e Integridad de la Creacion. Costa Rica
- Latin Ambiente, http://www.latinambiente.org
- Les gens du partage
- LOYOLA SCHOOL OF THEOLOGY, MANILA
- Maderas del Pueblo del Sureste, AC
- Maiouri nature, Guyane
- Mangrove Action Project
- Milieudefensie – Friends of the Earth Netherlands
- Movimento Amigos da Rua Gonçalo de Carvalho
- Muyissi Environnement, Gabon
- Nature-d-congo de la République du Congo
- New Wind Association from Finland
- NOAH-Friends of the Earth Denmark
- Oakland Institute
- OFRANEH, Honduras
- Ole Siosiomaga Society Incorporated (OLSSI)
- ONG OCEAN : Organisation Congolaise des Ecologistes et Amis de la Nature et sommes basés en RD Congo.
- OPIROMA, Brazil
- Otros Mundos A.C./Amigos de la Tierra México
- Paramo Guerrrero Zipaquira
- PROYECTO GRAN SIMIO (GAP/PGS-España)
- Quercus – ANCN, Portugal
- Radd (Reseau des Acteurs du Développement Durable) , Cameroon
- Rainforest Foundation UK
- Rainforest Relief
- ReAct – Alliances Transnationales
- RECOMA – Red latinoamericana contra los monocultivos de árboles
- Red de Coordinacion en Biodiversidad , Çosta Rica
- REFEB-Cote d’Ivoire
- Rettet den Regenwald, Germany
- ROBIN WOOD
- Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia)
- Salva la Selva
- School of Democratic Economics, Indonesia
- Serendipalm Company Limited
- Sherpa , The Netherlands
- SYNAPARCAM, Cameroon
- The Corner House, UK
Towards Equitable Sustainable Holistic Development
- TRAFFED KIVU ,RD. CONGOUNIÓN UNIVERSAL DESARROLLO SOLIDARIO
University of Sussex, UK
- UTB ColombiaWatch Indonesia!
World Rainforest Movement
- Youth Volunteers for the Environment Ghana
Discussion Paper. The Centre for Economic Performance, London School of Economics. Release date: 12th March, 2022
This paper provides novel granular evidence on the interaction between the Ebola epidemic, deforestation, and palm oil plantations in Liberia. The palm oil multinationals, exploiting the health crisis, stepped up deforestation to increase output. The effect on deforestation is more severe in areas inhabited by politically unrepresented ethnic groups, characterized by a reduction in tree coverage by 6.5%.
We also document an increase of more than 125% in the likelihood of
fire events within concessions during the epidemic. This suggests that not only did the palm oil companies foster deforestation, but further that they used forest fires to do so. This is particularly harmful to the environment, and the smoke and the haze may have severe health consequences, apart from being a source of carbon dioxide.
This deforestation was accompanied by a 150% increase in the amount of land dedicated to cultivation.
This exploitative behaviour was highly profitable for palm oil companies, with a 1428% increase in the value of Liberian palm oil’s exports
compared with the pre-Ebola period. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same for local people or the local environment.
The RSPO prevents and stops deforestation and fires on palm oil plantations by its members
Lies and denialism in the media about the environmental impact of palm oil
Research into media coverage of the environmental impact of palm oil in Indonesia shows they deny it’s causing ecocide
We found that media reporting of the denialist narrative is more prevalent than that of the peer-reviewed science consensus-view that palm oil plantations on tropical peat could cause excessive greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the risk of fires.
Our article alerts to the continuation of unsustainable practices as justified by the media to the public, and that the prevalence of these denialist narratives constitute a significant obstacle in resolving pressing issues such as transboundary haze, biodiversity loss, and land-use change related greenhouse gas emissions in Southeast Asia.Liu, Felicia & Ganesan, Vignaa & Smith, Thomas. (2020). Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. Environmental Science & Policy. 114. 162-169. 10.1016/j.envsci.2020.07.004.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo’s administration has achieved four consecutive years of deforestation declines via land-use reforms and re-establishing a logging moratorium. This significant work culminated in 2020 when the country gained its lowest deforestation rates since monitoring began, reaching a 75% drop year-over-year.Luana Stephen, Intelligent Living, September 1, 2021.
Certification of palm oil does not stop deforestation or fires
Tweet from Bart Van Assen, former lead auditor for the RSPO and HCV admitting that the main goal of the RSPO, FSC and other certification initiatives is not to prevent deforestation. (Bart has formerly used @palmoiltruther on Twitter but now changes between @Forest4Apes or @Apes4Forests depending on times when he attempts to conceal his identity).
Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire – Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)
Certification had no causal impact on forest loss in peatlands or active fire detection rates.Kimberly M. Carlson, Robert Heilmayr, Holly K. Gibbs, Praveen Noojipady et al. Effect of oil palm sustainability certification on deforestation and fire in Indonesia, PNAS January 2, 2018 115 (1) 121-126 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1704728114
No significant difference was found between certified and non-certified plantations for any of the sustainability metrics investigated, however positive economic trends including greater fresh fruit bunch yields were revealed. To achieve intended outcomes, RSPO principles and criteria are in need of substantial improvement and rigorous enforcement.Morgans, C. L. et al. Evaluating the effectiveness of palm oil certification in delivering multiple sustainability objectives. Environ. Res. Lett. 13, 064032 (2018).
The Neue Zuercher Zeitung used several cases to highlight where slash-and-burn techniques continue on RSPO-certified land, and where new plantations are threatening important ecosystems. These examples are representative of the huge gap between the need for environmental protection and the ever-increasing global demand for palm oil.Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner. ‘Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire’. Neue Zürcher Zeitung (May 2021) (In English)
Swiss multinational Nestlé received hundreds of thousands of alerts of forest clearing near its palm oil suppliers in 2019 via satellite monitoring.Nestlé identified over 1,000 cases of deforestation per day in palm oil areas. SwissInfo (2020).
Fire outbreaks in and around palm oil concessions (often starting from slash-and-burn fires to clear land for plantations).
Thousands of fire alerts were recorded by Chain Reaction Research on RSPO member palm oil plantations
The top ten palm oil traders and refiners in Indonesia all had thousands of alerts for fires in their palm oil plantations:
all of these companies are RSPO members
A 2019 World Health Organisation (WHO) report into the palm oil industry and RSPO finds extensive greenwashing of palm oil deforestation and the murder of endangered animals (i.e. biodiversity loss)
Explore the series
Further reading on palm oil, greenwashing and deceptive marketing
A Brief History of Consumer Culture, Dr Kerryn Higgs, The MIT Press Reader.
A Deluge of Double-Speak (2017), Jason Bagley. Truth in Advertising.
Anti-Corporate Activism and Collusion: The Contentious Politics of Palm Oil Expansion in Indonesia, (2022). Ward Berenschot, et. al., Geoforum, Volume 131, 2022, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geoforum.2022.03.002
Balanced Growth (2020), In: Leal Filho W., Azul A.M., Brandli L., özuyar P.G., Wall T. (eds)Responsible Consumption and Production. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.
Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, (2020), Felicia H M Liu, Vignaa Ganesan, Thomas E L Smith, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 114, 2020.
Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228
Earth Day 2021: Companies Accused of Greenwashing (2021), Truth in Advertising.
Effect of oil palm sustainability certification on deforestation and fire in Indonesia, (2018), Kimberly M. Carlson, Robert Heilmayr, Holly K. Gibbs, Praveen Noojipady et al. PNAS January 2, 2018 115 (1) 121-126
Fifteen environmental NGOs demand that sustainable palm oil watchdog does its job, (2019), Media release. Rainforest Action Network.
‘Gibt es nachhaltiges Palmöl? Satellitenbilder zeigen: Auch auf zertifizierten Plantagen brennt es immer wieder’, (2021), Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner, Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Green Clean, (2021), Cathy Armour (Commissioner, Australian Securities & Investments Commission). Company Director Magazine.
Greenwash and spin: palm oil lobby targets its critics, (2011), Alex Helan. Ecologist: Informed by Nature.
Group Challenges Rainforest Alliance Earth-Friendly Seal of Approval, (2015), Truth in Advertising.
Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law, (2011), Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
Greenwashing of the Palm Oil Industry, (2007), Mongabay
Greenwashing: The Darker Side Of CSR, (2011), Priyanka Aggarwal, Shri Ram College of Commerce (University of Delhi). Indian Journal of Applied Research 4(3):61-66 DOI:10.15373/2249555X/MAR2014/20
How Cause-washing Deceives Consumers, (2021), Truth in Advertising
‘Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire’, (2021), Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner.
Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World, (2019), Alice M. Tybout (Editor-in-Chief), Tim Calkins (Editor-in-Chief), Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.
No such thing as sustainable palm oil – ‘certified’ can destroy even more wildlife, say scientists, (2018), Jane Dalton. The Independent.
Palm oil watchdog’s sustainability guarantee is still a destructive con, (2019), Environmental Investigation Agency.
Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone. Tania Murray Li, Pujo Semedi, (2021), Duke University Press.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is ‘greenwashing’ labelled products, environmental investigation agency says, (2019), Annette Gartland. Changing Times Media.
RSPO: 14 years of failure to eliminate violence and destruction from the industrial palm oil sector, (2018), Friends of the Earth International.
Sustainable palm oil may not be so sustainable, (2018) , Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Jingjing Liang, Alena Velichevskaya, Mo Zhou, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 652, 2019, Pages 48-51, ISSN 0048-9697.
Sustainable palm oil or certified dispossession? NGOs within scalar struggles over the RSPO private governance standard (2019): Working Paper No. 8,
Bioeconomy & Inequalities; Wicke, Janis.
Sustainable palm oil? RSPO’s greenwashing and fraudulent audits exposed, (2015) Ecologist: Informed by Nature.
Sustainable Palm Oil? Who Knows, Thanks to Derelict Auditors, (2015), Kirby, David, Take Part.
Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains, (2021), Meemken, EM., Barrett, C.B., Michelson, H.C. et al. Nat Food
Study in WHO journal likens palm oil lobbying to tobacco and alcohol industries, (2019), Tom Miles. Reuters
The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases, (2019), Sowmya Kadandale, a Robert Martenb & Richard Smith. World Health Organisation Bulletin
The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases, (2019), Sowmya Kadandale, a Robert Martenb & Richard Smith. World Health Organisation Bulletin 2019;97:118–128|
The Time Has Come to Rein In the Global Scourge of Palm Oil, (2021), Jocelyn Zuckerman. Yale Environment 360, Yale School of Environment.
Truth in Advertising: Green Guides and Environmentally Friendly Products, Federal Trade Commission: Protecting America’s Consumers.
‘What do Millennials think of palm oil? Nestlé investigates’, (2021), Flora Southey. Food Navigator.
What is Greenwashing and How to Tell Which Companies are Truly Environmentally Responsible, (2021), Hewlett Packard.
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