Thursday, 29 April 2010

Sending a Message With Our Money

The Jakarta Globe, 29th April 2010

Sending a Message With Our Money

It is hard to comprehend why some palm oil companies in Malaysia and Indonesia still do not understand why their members come in for so much international criticism (“Besieged Palm Oil Growers Plan Malaysia Strategy,” April 21).

The core issues are really very simple. The palm oil industry has been responsible for destroying millions of hectares of rain forest and wiping out tens of millions of animals in the process. The industry is responsible for the deaths of many thousands of orangutans and about 1,000 currently in rescue centers.

Such facts may not be of any concern to these companies, but they matter to consumers, who have every right to insist the products they use or consume do not contribute to such wholesale and wanton environmental destruction. Customers are increasingly using their buying power to send a message.

Finally, there is the question of integrity and trust. Even members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, working — in theory at least — to stringent regulations, have been caught breaking the rules.

If any palm oil company thinks a consumer would for a second trust a certificate conjured up by a bunch of RSPO renegades sitting around a table in either Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur, it could prove to be a very expensive error.

The smart companies will comply fully with the RSPO. It makes good commercial sense to do so. And it is these same companies that will reap the benefits of increased sales as more and more customers give them their business.

Sean Whyte

Chief Executive, Nature Alert England

SBY, Time to Act To Save Orangutans

Why does it come as no surprise that a list published this month of the 12 most endangered species on the planet includes the Sumatran orangutan?

Shamefully for Indonesia, along with the Cuban crocodile, the Grenadian dove and the 59 white-headed langur monkeys left on an island off Vietnam, the Wildlife Conservation Society has identified a few thousand Sumatran orangutans left in small pockets of forest in Northern Sumatra.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono spoke this month of the need to halt Indonesia’s massive illegal logging problem. Maybe if he stopped turning a blind eye to all the palm oil plantations, mining concessions and legal logging concessions his government allows and actually acted on his words, the Sumatran orangutan and its Bornean counterpart might actually survive past the next five years.

The power to remove the Sumatran orangutan from the endangered list lies entirely with the president and his colleagues in the Forestry Ministry. Orangutan charities with limited funds can only do so much by rescuing a small number of the thousands of orangutans stranded every year in palm oil plantations.

I implore the president of Indonesia to finally put the money foreign governments have given him to stop deforestation where his mouth is and act to save the orangutans before they disappear altogether.

Jeanie Elford