For Immediate Release: August 28, 2023
Brittany Miller, Friends of the Earth U.S., [email protected], (202) 222-0746
Uli Arta Siagian, WAHLI, [email protected] (+628 2182 61 9212)
Maaike Baan, Milieudefensie, Friends of the Earth Netherlands, [email protected], +31651079960
The company is the tenth and latest consumer brand to cut business ties with Astra Agro Lestari, Indonesia’s second largest palm oil producer
JAKARTA / WASHINGTON - Last week, Kellogg informed Friends of the Earth U.S. that they suspended business with Astra Agro Lestari (AAL)’s subsidiaries in Central and West Sulawesi, Indonesia. Kellogg is now the tenth consumer brand – joining Hershey’s, Danone, FrieslandCampina and others – to suspend palm oil sourcing from AAL in some capacity due to land grabbing, human rights abuses and environmental destruction.
Despite continued suspensions from consumer brands and international condemnation, AAL has failed to conduct environmental restoration and remediate harm done to Indigenous and local communities in Sulawesi impacted by its palm oil operations.
“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. “Companies that violate human rights, operate outside of Indonesian law, and pollute our precious environment must right their wrongs.”
Kellogg’s announcement to cut ties with AAL follows a March 2022 report by WALHI (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) and Friends of the Earth US documenting the company’s extensive environmental and human rights abuses. These violations were confirmed by an independent investigation conducted last year by EcoNusantara. Despite mounting evidence of AAL’s violations, the company announced another investigation into abuses by its subsidiaries PT Agro Nusa Abadi, PT Lestari Tana Teladan, and PT Mamuang. Friends of the Earth groups rejected the investigation’s flawed terms of reference and published an analysis criticizing AAL for not taking concrete steps toward redressing grievances and remedying harm, while failing to seek inputs from impacted communities and civil society groups.
“The onus of proof is on AAL,” said Gaurav Madan, Senior Forests and Lands Campaigner at Friends of the Earth US. “The company should show evidence that it received communities’ free prior informed consent to operate on their lands and impact their livelihoods. AAL’s subsidiaries should present each one of the permits required to operate by Indonesian law. Why aren’t consumer brands asking to see this documentation? It’s their responsibility to conduct this type of independent due diligence, especially when violations have been brought to their attention.”
“Consumer goods companies continue to claim their business models are ‘sustainable’ while continuing to source from conflict palm oil companies like AAL,” said Danielle van Oijen, Forest Programme Coordinator at Milieudefensie. “Instead of greenwashing, these multi-billion dollar companies should use their public platforms to ensure AAL remedies the harm it has done to impacted communities and the environment.”
In addition to consumer brands’ suspensions, BlackRock – the world’s largest asset manager – voted against the election of AAL’s board of directors in April at the company’s annual shareholder meeting over the ongoing violations. BlackRock also voted against directors at AAL’s parent company Astra International in 2022. Earlier this year, Dutch pension fund PFZW sold off its investments in AAL.
Importantly, companies selling products on the European market will have to eliminate deforestation and human rights abuses from their supply chains by the end of next year to comply with new European regulation on deforestation. AAL’s violations, including land grabbing, environmental destruction, and permitting irregularities, pose risks to consumer brands’ ability to comply with the new regulation. For AAL, these risks may translate into further loss of business and greater reputational damage.