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Animal Rights

Pepsi, McDonalds, Nestlé, Other Major Brands Implicated in Illegal Destruction of Critical Elephant Habitat (Video)

A new investigation links major food corporations to a rogue palm oil company that is ravaging the rainforest.

Sumatran elephant, Indonesia
Photo Credit: vincentraal/Flickr CC

A Rainforest Action Network field investigation team has documented new evidence of large-scale, illegal rainforest destruction within habitat critical to the survival of the Sumatran elephant, tiger and orangutan. RAN’s research has uncovered supply chain connections that link the rogue palm oil company responsible for the deforestation to major global brands through their shared supplier, Wilmar. The companies implicated include PepsiCo, McDonalds, Nestle, Unilever and Procter and Gamble.

This forest clearance is taking place in direct breach of the Indonesian government moratorium on the clearance of rainforests for palm oil plantations announced last April, as well as the no-deforestation policies announced by palm oil giant Wilmar and other brands that commit the companies to eliminate conflict palm oil such as this from their products.

Please watch and share the RAN-produced video below and take action to raise the pressure on Wilmar, PepsiCo and others to immediately suspend relations with all palm oil mills being supplied by the company responsible for this large-scale forest destruction.

This fresh scandal is the first case study featured on RAN’s new web project Leuser Watch, a watchdog site for breaking news of important developments related to the conservation of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra.

The Leuser Ecosystem is one of the most important expanses of intact rainforests left anywhere in Southeast Asia and among the most biologically diverse landscapes ever documented. It is the only place on earth where orangutans, tigers, elephants and rhinos live together in the same forest. It is also the source of clean water and agricultural livelihoods for millions of people as well as a globally important region for trapping carbon that would otherwise enter the atmosphere as climate change-causing pollution.

The Leuser Ecosystem is also a key testing ground for recently achieved corporate and government commitments to halt the rampant destruction of tropical forests for industrial palm oil plantation development. This case is not an isolated incident; clearly, there is a long way to go to translate public promises into real action on the ground.

The illegal forest destruction was first spotted in a comparative analysis of satellite imagery which revealed a loss of forest cover inside a government-issued forest concession belonging to a palm oil company called PT. Agra Bumi Niaga. PT. ABN is a repeat offender that has previously been shut down by the government for breaching the deforestation moratorium.

RAN’s field investigators collected aerial drone video that caught earth movers in the act of ripping trees from the ground. Following this, RAN photographers tracked PT. ABN trucks from the plantation to a nearby mill that is a supplier to Wilmar, which in turn is a known supplier to PepsiCo and other brands.

RAN is calling on PepsiCo, McDonalds, Nestlé, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and other brands to demand that all of their supplying mills trace the palm oil they process to the plantation level and eliminate suppliers that have failed to enforce the moratorium on clearance of forests and peatlands for palm oil development.

Wilmar should immediately suspend sourcing from any mills that continue to be supplied by PT. ABN or other companies that violate its No Deforestation, No Peatlands and No Exploitation policy. In response to RAN’s report, Wilmar states that the mill in question has “put on hold” purchases from PT. ABN, but fails to outline any actions taken to ensure that PT. ABN will not continue to supply other nearby mills in its supply chain.

Unfortunately, this kind of egregious deforestation inside the Leuser Ecosystem takes place all too often, and usually without such rapid and thorough documentation to catch the culprits in the act. The good news is that concerned consumers can take meaningful action by contacting PepsiCo, Procter and Gamble, McDonalds and the other brands and holding them accountable to follow through with their commitments to cut ties with suppliers found to be involved in this kind of violation.

Please join the growing global movement to save the Leuser Ecosystem from further encroachment and stay tuned to LeuserWatch.org for regular updates.

Laurel Sutherlin is the senior communications strategist for Rainforest Action Network.

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