In June 2013, WWF released “Palming off a National Park,” a report on illegal encroachment of oil palm plantations into the Tesso Nilo National Park and two adjacent logging forests in Sumatra. The report showed that until 2012, over 52,000 hectares of natural forest in Tesso Nilo Forest Complex (made up of the national park and the 2 neighboring logging concessions) have already been converted to palm oil plantations, with over 15,000 ha of the converted area located inside the national park itself.
The report revealed that Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) members Wilmar and Asian Agri had not screened their Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) supplies and that some of the fruits were sourced from plantations inside the park—one of the last safe havens for critically endangered Sumatran elephants and Sumatran tigers.
The report spurred a quick reaction from both companies, which have since ceased sourcing from suppliers inside the park. It has also brought under fire buyers of palm oil, such as Kellogg’s (which buys palm oil from Wilmar but has also entered into a joint venture with Wilmar in China). Kelloggs is the subject of a petition urging it to end its collaboration with Wilmar.
The response of Wilmar and Asian Agri is an encouraging development, however tangible efforts are required to confirm that both companies are no longer contributing to deforestation and that they adhere to the RSPO Principles & Criteria – not just in Tesso Nilo but everywhere they are operating.
RSPO has welcomed WWF’s report and is forming a task force to develop a new policy and tools to help members ensure that all of the FFB they source comes from identified, legal and responsible sources.