Last month, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil trader, made a historic commitment to cut out deforestation, peatland destruction and the exploitation of human rights from its supply chain. This development has huge potential to transform the palm oil industry and the lives of people impacted by landgrabs and forest destruction. But so far, it’s just words on paper. Wilmar’s promise only matters if the company takes rapid and responsible action.
Wilmar’s crimes span continents: it has much to amend. In West Kalimantan, Indonesia, one of Wilmar’s suppliers, Bumitama Agri, stands accused of destroying thousands of acres of forest and maintaining illegal plantations inside protected forest reserves. Friends of the Earth has called on Wilmar to stop purchasing palm oil from Bumitama and to sell its shares in the company, but Wilmar has yet to do so.
In the Kalangala Islands of Uganda, Wilmar subsidiaries have taken thousands of acres from local communities and have destroyed natural forest to grow palm oil. Communities that depend on the region’s natural forests and lakes for subsistence are being driven off their land with little warning or compensation.
In Nigeria, Wilmar has acquired land that overlaps national forest reserves and community-owned lands, and has already deforested and bulldozed thousands of acres of forest and farmland. Our partners in Nigeria have launched a lawsuit to stop the destruction, but have yet to see any remedy. If Wilmar is to fulfill its commitment, it needs to halt its operations in Nigeria until and unless all legal and ecological concerns are addressed and until it gets full community consent.