Unilever Boycotts Sinar Mas CPO on Deforestation Report

Unilever, the world’s biggest user of palm oil, on Friday announced it was suspending purchases from Sinar Mas Group until the company proved its plantations weren’t contributing to deforestation in Asia.

The development came on the same day the Forestry Ministry dismissed evidence released by Greenpeace on Thursday that Sinar Mas was illegally clearing woodlands in West Kalimantan. Unilever’s boycott will apply until Indonesia’s biggest oil palm grower “can provide verifiable proof that none of their plantations are contributing to the destruction of high conservation value forests and expanding onto peat lands,” the London-based company said on Friday.

PT Smart, a unit of Jakarta-based Sinar Mas, provides about 5 percent of all the palm oil that the Anglo-Dutch company uses in its sauces, detergents and ice creams, Unilever spokesman Flip Dotsch said. Earlier on Friday, the Ministry of Forestry said Sinar Mas had violated no laws in regard to its activities in West Kalimantan. Unilever will buy palm oil from other Indonesian companies, he said, without giving names.

Awriya Ibrahim, director of forest protection at the ministry, said allegations that three Sinar Mas companies did not have the proper permits to clear land in West Kalimantan’s Kapuas Hulu district were unfounded. “Sinar Mas companies have not made any violations, especially not in regard to land-clearing activities,” he said. “They do possess the necessary documentation needed to clear land.”

Awriya said that clarification was needed in regard to a continuing misperception concerning existing regulations governing timber plantations. He said companies were well aware that all of the country’s forested areas were state-owned, and that any conversion or land clearing activities carried out in those areas needed to be approved by the government.

“Sinar Mas companies did not require the [timber harvesting permit] because within their RKT [annual work plan] they were scheduled to pay the state for cutting forested areas. It is the same thing,” Awriya said.

The 1999 Forestry Law prohibits companies from cutting down trees without a permit. On Thursday, a Greenpeace report said Sinar Mas companies were not obtaining permits for clearing forested areas. “RKT only elaborates on the companies’ plans to convert forested regions, including details on how many hectares are earmarked for conversion. The companies still need to obtain a permit,” Joko Arif of Greenpeace Southeast Asia said.

The Greenpeace report accused Sinar Mas units PT Kartika Prima Cipta, PT Paramitha Internusa Pratama and PT Persada Graha Mandiri of illegally clearing land in West Kalimantan from 2006 to 2008.

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