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New Guinea rainforest being leveled for palm oil, revealing gaps in zero deforestation pacts

Greenomics map showing recent clearing by Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri in West Papua, Indonesia
Greenomics map showing recent clearing by Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri in West Papua, Indonesia

An Indonesian palm oil firm is destroying rainforests in New Guinea despite high profile zero deforestation pledges from its customers, finds research by Greenomics-Indonesia.

Landsat imagery acquired and analyzed by Greenomics shows that Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri (ANJ) is clearing high carbon stock forests in the southern part of West Papua’s Bird’s Head Peninsula in Indonesian New Guinea. According to data from Global Forest Watch, clearance is occurring within an “Intact Forest Landscape”, which is defined as “an unbroken expanse of natural ecosystems within the zone of current forest extent, showing no signs of significant human activity, and large enough that all native biodiversity, including viable populations of wide-ranging species, could be maintained.”

Global Forest Watch images showing intact forest landscape and primary forest in the areas (noted by pins) where Austindo Nusantara Jaya is clearing land for oil palm plantations. Click images to enlarge.

The activity is occurring despite zero deforestation policies established by Musim Mas and Wilmar, palm oil giants that buy from ANJ, which itself is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a body that sets eco-certification standards.

Reached by, Wilmar said it was unaware of the clearing by ANJ but promised to investigate the matter. The company noted that no one had filed a grievance via its online complaints system to report on the activity.

Musim Mas did not respond to request for comment [Update: Musim Mas responded after the story was posted]. But the company’s sustainability policy suggests that ANJ’s clearing would not represent a breach of its zero deforestation pledge, since it only applies to mill-level operations in 2015. Musim Mas doesn’t plan to extend the policy to the plantation level until 2017.

Google Earth images showing points of clearing by Austindo Nusantara Jaya Agri in Indonesian New Guinea. Click images to enlarge.

Accordingly, Greenomics says the findings indicate that zero deforestation pacts still have loopholes that allow ongoing forest clearing. It adds that ANJ will have to cease forest clearing if it wants to comply with its customers’ zero deforestation policies once they go into effect.

“ANJ is one of the crude palm oil (CPO) suppliers to companies that are currently in the process of cleaning up their supply chain from deforestation,” Greenomics told “ANJ has to stop clearing Papua’s forest if they still want to continue to be a CPO supplier to the zero deforestation policy-adopted companies. Given that no guarantee that ANJ will stop its role in destroying Papua’s forests, Wilmar and Musim Mas should take measurable actions — that are in line with their no deforestation policy — to respond to the unstoppable Papua’s forest clearing by ANJ.”

The case also reveals gaps in monitoring zero deforestation commitments. There aren’t yet systems for comprehensively tracking deforestation across supply chains. For example, ANJ’s plantations don’t show up in Global Forest Watch’s palm oil layer, indicating that the data isn’t contained in recent data sets from the Indonesian government.

Wilmar has taken early steps to address this issue by launching an online dashboard that maps its supply chain, including companies it buys from. However the dashboard doesn’t presently include entries for ANJ [Update: Wilmar notes that while ANJ isn’t listed in the dashboard, ANJ subsidiaries are included. See update below]. Musim Mas discloses its relationship with ANJ on its web site.

ANJ has itself admitted to breaching RSPO rules for new planting. Last July, the company told Mongabay that “an infringement has occurred” and it would suspend “all activities…. on site.” However Greenomics’ analysis shows that clearing has continued in nearby concessions despite that statement.

ANJ didn’t respond to request for comment on the evidence of new clearing.

Greenomics map showing concessions recently acquired by ANJ in West Papua.

Update: 23-Feb-2015, 21:30 PST — response from Musim Mas

It is part of our new policy to investigate any supplier who does not adhere to our policy. Even though Greenomics has never raised the issue to us directly, only via media channels, but now that you have highlighted this matter, we will conduct our due diligence on the suppliers mentioned in Greenomics’ report and also contact Greenomics.

We are currently mapping out our first tier of supply chain, particularly the suppliers who provide the Crude Palm Oil (CPO) for our 10 refineries in Indonesia. Our refineries in Indonesia account for the bulk of the Group’s global refining capacity. Next, if these suppliers are located or are currently sourcing from areas considered to be high risk, they will be earmarked as a priority for engagement. These high-risk areas include areas with deep peat, areas near or inside designated national parks and the surrounding ecosystem, or areas with known social conflicts.

We will update our stakeholders on our progress in the upcoming quarterly report (available on ).

Update: 25-Feb-2015, 5:30 PST — response from Wilmar

It is stated in the article “Wilmar has taken early steps to address this issue by launching an online dashboard that maps its supply chain, including companies it buys from. However the dashboard doesn’t presently include entries for ANJ.” We would to clarify that our traceability and supply chain map on the Dashboard for now works on the basis of tracing palm oil back to mill level. In this regard, we revealed on the Dashboard the names of the mills belonging to PT ANJ that are supplying our refinery, rather than the parent company PT ANJ.

While no formal grievance on PT ANJ has been lodged with Wilmar’s Grievance Procedure, we have initiated engagement with PT ANJ and we have now also registered the case on our grievance log. We will be updating the grievance list on our Dashboard accordingly; and you may follow the progress of the case from that platform.

Following the launch of our No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation Policy, we have been working hard on many fronts. One of our immediate tasks is to map out our direct supply chain and the traceability level. This process is ongoing and the progress is reported on a quarterly basis on both our website and the Dashboard. With respect to issues relating to our suppliers but outside of our supply chain, for e.g. the case of PT ANJ, we will have to continue to rely on stakeholders like the civil society organisations and media to inform us so that we can take the necessary actions to address them, where relevant. If any stakeholder has any concerns regarding our Wilmar’s operations or that of its suppliers, we welcome them to write in to us, or through our Grievance Procedure.



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