Greenwashing Tactic #9: Partnerships, Sponsorships & Research Funding

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 9 Partnerships Sponsorships

Using corporate partnerships, sponsorships and research funding to give a commodity, an industry, certification scheme or supermarket brand a ‘greener’ reputation


Greenwashing Tactic: Partnerships, Sponsorships & Research Funding

Global brands that are members of the RSPO provide money to Zoos, city councils in the UK and small businesses in order to push the lie of sustainable palm oil to school children and unaware consumers.


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#Greenwashing Tactic #9: Using #corporate #partnerships, #sponsorships and #research #funding to give a #commodity, #industry or a #brand a ‘greener’ reputation.#Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing


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Orangutan Land Trust & FairTrade meet in 2014 to discuss partnerships

Orangutan Land Trust accepts a cheque from Kulim Malaysia Berhad


Greenwashing Partnership: Chester Zoo, Ferrero, Wilmar

Greenwashing Partnership: WWF

Greenwashing Partnership: WAZA

Greenwashing Partnership: Chester Zoo & the RSPO

Greenwashing Partnership: Sustainable Palm Oil Cities

Greenwashing Partnership: Mobile apps

Greenwashing Research


Reality: Human rights abuses, land-grabbbing by RSPO members

Chester Zoo & the Modern Slavery Act

Reality: RSPO 14 Years of Failure by Friends of the Earth and 100 other NGOs

Reality: Associated Press Investigation into RSPO members

Reality: Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) Investigation RSPO plantations on fire

Explore the Series

Further reading: greenwashing and deceptive marketing

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Corporate partnerships, sponsorships and research funding are easy ways to gain legitimacy and win consumer trust


Orangutan Land Trust and FairTrade met and shared tips on partnerships and sponsorships that incorporate certification in 2014

Michelle Desilets receives a cheque

The two charities discussed how branding can play a big role in helping an organisation stand out from the crowd. Orangutan Land Trust recently introduced a corporate partnerships scheme that will incorporate certification, and Fairtrade was able to provide some valuable insight from its own experience in this area.

‘Fairtrade Foundation and Orangutan Land Trust on corporate partnerships and grants’ 2014

Orangutan Land Trust accepts a cheque for $500,000 for ‘worthy organisations on the ground’ from Kulim, a palm oil company that was one of their corporate partners in with deforestation in their supply chain.


Kulim Malaysia Berhad provides Orangutan Land Trust with a $500,000 USD cheque.

Michelle Desilets accepts cheque for 500k from Kulim

In 2015, Orangutan Land Trust listed Kulim Malaysia Berhad, a palm oil company as one of their corporate partners on their website.

BSI, a company that conducts audits for the RSPO is listed as a corporate partner of Orangutan Land Trust as well. Bart, Technical Advisor for Orangutan Land Trust was conducting audits of palm oil companies at the same time.

Orangutan Land Trust Corporate Sponsors Partrners Oct 2015
Orangutan Land Trust Corporate Sponsors Partrners Oct 2015

“Responsible and committed companies like Kulim ensure that no orangutan habitat is affected by their operations while also supporting conservation efforts outside their concession areas,” said Michelle Desilets, Executive Director, Orangutan Land Trust.

Michelle Desilets, quoted in Merdeka, Sept 2015

World’s largest sovereign wealth fund drops Kulim Malaysia Berhad over deforestation’ – Mongabay.


A few months later in March 2016, Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which manages $828 billion worth of funds, revealed that they had dropped Kulim Malaysia Berhad from their investment portfolio because Kulim were involved in ‘severe environmental damage and ecocide’ ‘World’s largest sovereign wealth fund just dropped 11 companies over deforestation’ – Mongabay.

The HAZE Elimination Team Facebook group asked Michelle Desilets to reveal who specifically received the funds. She did not provide funding recipients. See thread on Facebook and news story in Indonesian.

A Facebook group called the HAZE action team posted this about Orangutan Land Trust accepting the cheque for 500K from Kulim, a palm oil company that later was dropped for fire and deforestation - click to read original post.
A Facebook group called the HAZE Action Team posted this about Orangutan Land Trust accepting the cheque for 500K from Kulim, a palm oil company that was disgraced in the same year for deforestation.

Again in 2019 on Twitter Michelle Desilets was asked who received the money in Kalimantan. She did not answer

Original tweet link
Original tweet link

NGO partnered within the RSPO for the past ten years include WWF, OrangutanSOS, Orangutan Land Trust, Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.


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Greenwashing:

Chester Zoo Ferrero & Wilmar


Global brands and RSPO members Ferrero and Wilmar (linked to extensive human rights abuses and deforestation) work together with Chester Zoo and the RSPO to promote sustainable palm oil


Original Tweet
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Greenwashing:

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)


WWF provides an annual Palm Oil Scorecard which ranks supermarket brands (RSPO members) providing consumers with baseless reassurances of palm oil sustainability.


WWF’s Palm Oil Scorecard ranks RSPO members (supermarket brands) such as: Tesco, Nestle, Ferrero, Unilever, Pepsi, CocaCola, Hersheys, Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, Avon, Johnson&Johnson, Mondelez, PZ Cussons, Mars. This score card omits deforestation, fires, human rights abuses, illegal landgrabbing, violence and ecocide caused by these same RSPO members, by using ‘green’ words and design.

A founding member of the RSPO, WWF adds legitimacy and is a well-known global conservation brand. Their mission of saving animals has been overtaken by corporate interests and the need for corporate funding.

Original Tweet
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Zoos around the world promote the use of RSPO ‘sustainable’ palm oil.

Despite clear, long-term evidence of indigenous land-grabbing, human rights abuses, ecocide, violence and deforestation by RSPO members


Chester Zoo provides educational and marketing resources to the Zoo network. The RSPO members (supermarket brands) provide sponsorship and funding in exchange for the promotion of sustainable palm oil.

  • WAZA - Guide to Greenwashing in Zoos for sustainable palm oil
  • WAZA - Guide to Greenwashing in Zoos for sustainable palm oil
  • WAZA - Guide to Greenwashing in Zoos for sustainable palm oil
  • WAZA - Guide to Greenwashing in Zoos for sustainable palm oil

Greenwashing:

Chester Zoo & the RSPO push ‘sustainable’ palm oil in UK schools


Chester Zoo and the RSPO promote educational resources and marketing materials about ‘sustainable’ palm oil to children and teens across the UK


Original Tweet

This term, Year 6 have been studying deforestation and the need for sustainable palm oil in our everyday items. Our research of products, sustainable sources and the effect on wildlife culminated in a group being invited to deliver a presentation at @chesterzoo for @LearnatCZ

Originally tweeted by St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School (@stjosephsbh) on October 21, 2021.

  • Chester Zoo educational material about how 'sustainable' palm oil is the 'lesser of two evils'
  • Chester Zoo educational material about how 'sustainable' palm oil is the 'lesser of two evils'
  • Chester Zoo educational material, words and music to the song 'Palm Oil Conga' designed for small children.
  • Chester Zoo educational material, words and music to the song 'Palm Oil Conga' designed for small children.
  • Chester Zoo educational material, words and music to the song 'Palm Oil Conga' designed for small children.
  • Chester Zoo educational material, words and music to the song 'Palm Oil Conga' designed for small children.
  • Chester Zoo educational material about how 'sustainable' palm oil helps endangered species
  • One school's response to the call to join the 'Palm Oil Conga'
greenwashing RSPO

Greenwashing:

Sustainable Palm Oil Cities


Chester Zoo, Ferrero, Orangutan Land Trust and the RSPO push sustainable palm oil to city councils in the ‘Sustainable Palm Oil Cities’ initiative.


Original Tweet

Greenwashing:

Mobile apps are promoted by zoos and the RSPO to push sustainable palm oil


The Giki Earth, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo app and Impact Score App promote ‘sustainable’ palm oil to consumers, giving them the reassurances of ‘orangutan safe’ and ‘sustainable’ choices in the supermarket


Original Tweet
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‘Orangutan Friendly’ recommendations in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo app include all RSPO ‘certified sustainable’ members linked to deforestation, ecocode and human rights abuses for palm oil


Greenwashing:

Research that examines the RSPO’s ‘sustainability’ is funded by the RSPO and industry, i.e. global food companies.

Researchers paid by the RSPO are doing research on the RSPO's effectiveness

Pictured: Dr Jennifer Lucey presents on findings of the SEnSOR programme @SensorProgramme via @SEARRP on Twitter

Original tweet

Original tweet

SEnSOR (Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil palm Research) is a research programme set-up to examine the environmental and social impact of the RSPO. However, as this photo from Twitter reveals, it is funded by the RSPO, along with the industry – meaning global supermarket brands and palm oil companies that are part of the RSPO

No specific mention of industry funding is present on any research papers, the university websites, the SEnSOR website or anywhere else.


The SEnSOR project receives funding from the RSPO but is still apparently able to release findings that are independent and critical of the certification scheme.

Funding relationships with the RSPO are left off the University of York’s website. There is no mention at all of palm oil research or of SEnSOR project on the University of Oxford’s website either.

Original tweet

In research published by the SEnSOR project, authors declare that they have done work for palm oil companies and/or the RSPO.


Ethics declaration: Meijaard, E., Brooks, T.M., Carlson, K.M. et al. The environmental impacts of palm oil in context. Nat. Plants 6, 1418–1426 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41477-020-00813-w


Research papers produced by the SEnSOR programme analysing the RSPO’s sustainability and effectiveness – paid for by the RSPO and industry


  • Science for Policy paper by the SEnSOR project
  • Science for Policy paper by the SEnSOR project
  • Science for Policy paper by the SEnSOR project

The results of SEnSOR’s research studies reveal that RSPO certification is ineffective at stopping deforestation, loss of biodiversity and improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Read more.


These same researchers act as public campaigners and spokespeople for ‘sustainable’ palm oil


Original tweet

To be successful in avoiding biodiversity losses RSPO plantations need to demonstrate avoided deforestation, and reduced fragmentation with higher forest cover and connectivity within their concession areas.

The Potential for Oil Palm Landscapes to Support At-Risk Species

Original tweet

Dr Jennifer Lucey’s research, which is funded by the RSPO and industry sets out the minimum amount of rainforest that can be left over for endangered species by the palm oil industry.

Dr Eric Meijaard is the Chair of the IUCN Palm Oil Taskforce

He produces research about sustainable palm oil that is either ambiguous and inconclusive or positive about the effect that ‘sustainable’ palm oil plantations have on biodiversity and ecology. He publicly promotes the idea of sustainable palm oil, despite its links to ecocide, deforestation and human rights abuses associated with RSPO members (supermarket brands, palm oil traders and producers).

  • Eric Meijaard pushing sustainable palm oil - lesser of two evils
  • eric meijaard rspo conference
  • eric meijaard rspo conference

Reality

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

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

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Chester Zoo and the modern slavery act


Chester Zoo has a ‘Modern Slavery’ act on their website which prohibits slavery in their suppliers and partners. Yet they are a public partner of the RSPO, an industry certification scheme deeply embedded in ecocide, corruption, deforestation, human rights abuses. They also partner with Ferrero and receive funding from them – a global food company and RSPO member involved in slavery, deforestation and human rights abuses.

Chester Zoo's modern slavery act

Yet Chester Zoo partners with and promotes RSPO members and receives funding from Ferrero, a global food company and RSPO member with links to child slavery and deforestation.


A 2021 Investigation by Global Witness finds that palm oil companies in Papua New Guinea are alleged to have been involved in corruption, child labour, apparent tax evasion, deforestation, worker deaths and paying police to assault villagers.

The palm oil from these mills is used by RSPO members Colgate-Palmolive, Kelloggs, General Mills, Nestle, Hersheys, Danone, PZ Cussons – finds its way into our weekly supermarket shop.

A 2021 campaign by Sum of Us delivers 260,000 signatures on a petition to the US government to order Ferrero to stop sourcing palm oil.

Ferrero’s palm oil used in products like Ferrero Rocher and Nutella. Their palm oil is linked to child slavery, violence, human rights abuses and deforestation.

Deforestation in West Papua

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

Letter

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:

  1. Planting on a large-scale and in monoculture, frequently through conversion of tropical biodiverse forests
  2. Using “high yielding” seedlings that demand large amounts of agrotoxics and abundant water.
  3. Squeezing cheap labour out of the smallest possible work force, employed in precarious conditions so that company costs are cut to a minimum
  4. Making significant up-front money from the tropical timber extracted from concessions, which is then used to finance plantation development or increase corporate profits.
  5. 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.

RSPO creates a smokescreen that makes this violence invisible for consumers and financiers. Governments often fail to take regulatory action to stop the expansion of plantations and increasing demand of palm oil; they rely on RSPO to deliver an apparently sustainable flow of palm oil.

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.

Signatures

  • Aalamaram-NGOAcción Ecológica, Ecuador
  • ActionAid, France
  • AGAPAN
    Amics arbres
  • 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
  • GRAIN
  • Green Development Advocates (GDA)
  • CameroonGreystones, Ireland
  • Groupe International de Travail pour les Peuples Autochtones
    Grupo ETC
  • 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
  • Kempityari
  • 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!
  • WESSA
    World Rainforest Movement
  • Youth Volunteers for the Environment Ghana

Associated Press investigation (2020) finds widespread violence, rape and slavery of women by RSPO members: Colgate-Palmolive, L’Oreal, Avon, Unilever, Johnson&Johnson, for palm oil that ends up in beauty brands



Dayak Indigenous Ethnographer Dr Setia Budhi: In His Own Words
Dayak Indigenous Ethnographer Dr Setia Budhi: In His Own Words

“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 – all RSPO members, also have the biggest deforestation risk. Deforestation goes against the RSPO’s rules.

Source: Insights: Indonesian Palm Oil. Trase Earth (2018)

  • The top five traders in Indonesia handled 75% of exports. The three biggest palm oil traders: Sinar Mas, Wilmar and Musim Mas also have the biggest deforestation risk of all RSPO members (deforestation goes against the RSPO's rules). [Source: Trase]
  • The top five traders in Indonesia handled 75% of exports. The three biggest palm oil traders: Sinar Mas, Wilmar and Musim Mas also have the biggest deforestation risk of all RSPO members (deforestation goes against the RSPO's rules). [Source: Trase]
Burning Questions – Credibility of sustainable palm oil still illusive - EIA
Burning Questions – Credibility of sustainable palm oil still illusive – Environmental Investigation Agency (2021)
Dying for a cookie: How Mondelez's Dirty Palm Oil is feeding the climate and extinction crisis by Greenpeace (2019)
Dying for a cookie: How Mondelez’s Dirty Palm Oil is feeding the climate and extinction crisis by Greenpeace (2019)
Who Watches the Watchmen Part 2: The continuing incompetence of the RSPO’s assurance systems (2019)
The RSPO: 14 Years of Failure by Friends of the Earth International and Co-signed by 100 Indigenous and Human Rights Organisations (2014)
The RSPO: 14 Years of Failure by Friends of the Earth International and Co-signed by 100 Indigenous and Human Rights Organisations (2014)
Destruction Certified by Greenpeace 2021
Destruction Certified by Greenpeace (2021)
Trading Risks ADM and Bunge and failing land and environmental rights defenders in Indonesia (2021)
Keep the Forests Standing: Exposing Brands and Banks Driving Deforestation. Rainforest Action Network (2021)
Keep the Forests Standing: Exposing the brands driving deforestation – RAN (2020)
License to Clear Dark Side of Permitting in West Papua by Greenpeace (2021)
License to Clear Dark Side of Permitting in West Papua by Greenpeace (2021)
FMCG’s Zero-Deforestation Challenges and Growing Exposure to Reputational Risk. Chain Reaction Research (2020)
Plantation Life Corporate Occupation in Indonesia's Oil Palm Zone (2021)
Plantation Life Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone (2021)

Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up In Everything and Endangered the World by Jocelyn Zuckerman (2021)
Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up In Everything and Endangered the World by Jocelyn Zuckerman (2021)
Rethinking Dayak Identity Dr Setia Budhi
Rethinking Dayak Identity Dr Setia Budhi
Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner. ‘Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire’. (May 2021) https://www.nzz.ch/english/palm-oil-boom-threatens-protected-rainforest-in-indonesia-ld.1625490
Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner. ‘Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire’. (May 2021) https://www.nzz.ch/english/palm-oil-boom-threatens-protected-rainforest-in-indonesia-ld.1625490
The True Price of Palm Oil: How global finance and household brands are fuelling deforestation, violence and human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea
The True Price of Palm Oil: How global finance and household brands are fuelling deforestation, violence and human rights abuses in Papua New Guinea

Reality:

Certification of palm oil does not stop deforestation or fires

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 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 are RSPO members

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Summary

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Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and fight greenwashing and deforestation by using your wallet as a weapon!

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.

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.

Client Earth: The Greenwashing Files

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: definition and examples. Selectra

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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Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail industry and influence big palm oil to stop cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join me and stand up for the animals with your art and your supermarket choices

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