Palm-oil giant blamed for deforestation 

The world’s largest palm-oil trader is being blamed for large-scale deforestation in Indonesia, despite proclaiming in 2013 that it would end tree felling, according to Greenpeace. 

Wilmar International has a family connection to Gama, a major Indonesian palm-oil producer which Greenpeace said had cleared forest twice the size of Paris. 

Palm oil is used in numerous products, including margarine, biscuits, soap and biodiesel. 

Gama was established by Singapore-listed Wilmar’s co-founder Martua Sitorus and his brother in 2011 and its land concessions are owned and managed by the pair’s relatives, according to the environmental NGO. 

It said mapping and satellite analysis showed Gama had cleared 21,500 hectares of rainforest or peatland since Wilmar’s commitment to stop Indonesian logging.

“For years, Wilmar and Gama have worked together, with Gama doing the dirty work so Wilmar’s hands stay clean,” said Kiki Taufik of Greenpeace’s forest campaign.

“Wilmar must immediately cut off all palm-oil suppliers that can’t prove they aren’t destroying rainforests.

“Wilmar has been trading Gama’s oil all over the world, including to brands like P&G, Nestlé and Unilever. Brands cannot let this deception pass unchallenged, and have no choice but to suspend all business with Wilmar until it can prove it only trades clean palm oil from responsible producers,” said Taufik.

Greenpeace said the firm denied having any influence over Gama.

Wilmar said it ceased buying suppliers that were allegedly associated with Gama as identified by Greenpeace on June 20.

The firm said it would not buy from any company that could not prove it was not owned by Gama because of the alleged non-compliance with Wilmar’s deforestation policy.

It added that it had no control or management over Gama and Wilmar executives with family ties to Gama did not hold any influence on Wilmar’s sustainability policy.

Several firms have made “no deforestation” pledges but campaigners say such commitments are hard to monitor and frequently broken.

Indonesia is now the world’s third-highest greenhouse-gas emitter because cleared vegetation is often burned. 

Huge amounts of carbon are released when peat is burned, which are difficult to put out and a key factor in outbreaks of toxic haze which chokes the region towards the end of most years. 

A third of all Indonesian mammal species are now estimated to be critically endangered as a result of deforestation, largely for palm oil.


Indonesia’s dense jungle has been ravaged at an alarming rate. Picture credit: Flickr