Friday, 2 April 2010

Sinar Mas Picks Groups to Assess Greenpeace Claims

April 02, 2010
Yoga Rusmana Jakarta Globe

Sinar Mas Picks Groups to Assess Greenpeace Claims

PT Sinar Mas Group, Indonesia’s largest palm oil producer, has appointed two bodies to assess allegations from Greenpeace that it has destroyed rainforests, a key habitat for orangutans.

Stung by the loss of customers over the claims, Sinar Mas has appointed Control Union Certification and the BSI Group to investigate, it said on Thursday.

The two are certification bodies approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Greenpeace said it “doubts this verification will be neutral.”

Nestle and Unilever stopped buying palm oil from Sinar Mas after the Greenpeace report, decisions that were described as unfair by the Indonesia Palm Oil Association (Gapki).

Cargill has also said it may stop doing business with the company if the claims are correct and it takes no action. Indonesia is the world’s biggest palm oil producer.

“This verification goes beyond the need to verify the claims made by Greenpeace,” said Daud Dharsono, president director of Sinar Mas unit PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology.

“We are constantly reviewing our best practices as part of our absolute commitment toward sustainable palm oil production.”

Greenpeace first made the claims against Sinar Mas in an April 2008 report titled “Burning up Borneo.”

Unilever accounted for about 3 percent of Sinar Mas’s palm oil sales, while Nestle made up 0.2 percent, Sinar Mas said late last month.

Nestle’s decision to stop buying from Sinar Mas is “perfectly normal,” Environment Minister Gusti M Hatta said on March 26.

“That’s their right as a consumer. If there’s a clear violation, then I would cut them off without mercy.”

In February, Sinar Mas Group reiterated its commitment to enhance sustainable production of palm oil and to ensure that the company does not develop land with high carbon stock and high conservation value.

“We doubt this verification will be neutral as the appointment is made by Sinar Mas and it’s not the first verification for Sinar Mas,” said Bustar Maitar, team leader for forests at Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

“Unilever has had their own review of Sinar Mas plantations. We think it would be much better if these two verificators are accompanied by independent parties.”

The Kuala Lumpur-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is a trade body of producers and buyers set up to promote the “growth and use of sustainable oil palm products.”