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Malaysian palm oil giant tied to social conflict, deforestation, says report

Borneo rainforest
Rainforest conversion for an oil palm plantation in Malaysia

Unlike other palm oil giants that have recently made strong commitments to eliminating deforestation and social conflict from their supply chains, Malaysia-based Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) continues to source palm oil associated with forest destruction and community conflict, argues a new report published by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN).

The report, titled Conflict Palm Oil in Practice, cites several high profile cases from the past year involving KLK, including conflict with communities in Papua New Guinea and Liberia, use of child labor on an Indonesian plantation, and continued deforestation at two plantations in Indonesia.

“The sheer magnitude of the abuse that KLK has engaged in is shocking,” said Robin Averbeck, senior forest campaigner with Rainforest Action Network. “From Liberia to Indonesia to Papua New Guinea, KLK is involved in everything from the destruction of endangered orangutan habitat to widespread child labor and the violation of the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysia

Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysia
Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysia

The report aims to pressure American firms that buy from KLK to drop the company as a supplier. One of KLK’s major buyers, Wilmar, recently established a zero deforestation policy that would seem to compel it to stop doing business with the palm oil producer. But Cargill, a KLK buyer that has been the target of a long-running RAN campaign, has no such policy.

“KLK is able to continue to operate with impunity while major traders, like Cargill, continue to purchase the palm oil it produces to sell to food manufacturers in the United States and around the world,” noted Averbeck.

Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysia
Deforestation for palm oil in Malaysian Borneo

RAN’s hope is that convincing major traders to stop buying from KLK could push the company to adopt a zero deforestation, zero conflict policy like those established by Golden Agri-Resources in 2011 and Wilmar in 2013.

Palm oil production is currently the biggest driver of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.

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