Astra Agro Lestari: The Dirtiest Palm Oil Supplier

Astra Agro Lestari is Indonesia’s second-largest palm oil company and supplies crude palm oil (CPO) to many companies. A joint report by Friends of the Earth U.S. and Friends of the Earth Indonesia (WALHI) found that AAL is responsible for environmental destruction in palm oil operations conducted without proper legal permits.

Farmers have long complained, dating back to 2005, that three AAL subsidiaries illegally occupied around 16,000 acres of their land. Local communities accuse the three companies of violently occupying land with the help of Indonesian security forces, encroaching on legally protected forests, and destroying waterways.

AAL claims on its website that it “always seeks to maintain balance between the interests of society, the environment, the sustainable profitability of the economy, partnership, and peace which are in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs).”

“We echo the calls of communities impacted by AAL’s destructive operations for AAL to return land taken without consent,” said Uli Arta Siagian, Campaigner Manager, Forest and Plantation, at WALHI National, in a statement.

“Companies that violate human rights, operate outside of Indonesian law, and pollute our precious environment must right their wrongs.”

Kellogg: The Latest Company Ending Sourcing from Astra Agro Lestari

In August. Kellogg told Friends of the Environment they suspended business with Astra Agro Lestari’s (AAL) subsidiaries in Central and Sulawesi, Indonesia. The move made Kellogg the 10th consumer brand to stop palm oil sourcing from AAL because of environmental destruction and human rights abuses. Global Warming Is Real contacted Kellogg, and they responded with the following statement:

“Kellogg is committed to working with our global palm oil suppliers to support the production of sustainable palm oil from sources that are environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable. Anything less is not acceptable. Astra Agro Lestari is not a direct supplier to Kellogg but is upstream in our supply chain. We directed our direct suppliers sourcing from AAL to stop sourcing from the mills linked to the reported grievances in Indonesia.”

FOE engages with consumer goods companies that source from AAL. The environmental organization corresponds with companies, names them in press statements and reports, and uses other forms of advocacy. In 2022, representatives of indigenous groups, civil society, and community-based organizations sent a letter to companies sourcing palm oil from AAL. The letter urged the companies to suspend palm oil and palm kernel oil procurement from AAL. The letter to the companies included PepsiCo, Hershey’s, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, and Kellogg–all of whom suspended operations with AAL in 2022.

“Our main focus is winning land back and remedy and grievance redress for communities impacted by AAL and its subsidiaries operations in Sulawesi, Indonesia,” Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner, FOE U.S. told Global Warming Is Real.

The Palm Oil Industry in Indonesia

Peatlands are the largest terrestrial carbon store on earth. They store more carbon than any other type of vegetation, but the destruction of peatland releases carbon dioxide. Damaged or destroyed peatlands are a significant carbon source, releasing nearly six percent of global carbon emissions. Indonesian peatlands store around 80 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to five percent of all carbon stored in soil globally. Indonesia held approximately 50 percent of global tropical peatlands in the past. Now they are diminishing quickly due to the increase of oil palm plantations.

A 2021 report by Human Rights Watch found that the Indonesian government encourages increased palm oil production but lacks regulations for domestic companies in the sector. The Indonesian palm oil sector causes the clearing of rainforests and peatlands. The palm oil industry is the country’s largest source of emissions. According to the report, the government’s palm oil certification standard, Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), lacks a grievance resolution mechanism and weak sanctions and accountability provisions.

Image credit: Glenn Hurowitz on Flickr

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman
Gina-Marie Cheeseman, freelance writer/journalist/copyeditor Twitter: @gmcheeseman

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