NGOs in the news (update 2a): The US Halloween $2 billion candy season and palm oil critique, new forest destruction report

Some recent articles on NGOs which are active in the palm oil sector. Newest is a controversial book on the WWF, and I'll also post up later some discussion between TFT and FSC, which might be of interest to the folk in palm oil.

5 November 2014:

Oil Palm: Not the Evil We Think It Is By Erik Meijaard  on 07:35 am Nov 04, 2014; Category Commentary, Editor's Choice, Featured, Opinion Tags: Deforestation, palm oil; "...we need environmentalists to work with producers and really find out the best cost-effective way to maximize yields with minimum social and environmental costs. Without the input from scientists and others, the industry is unlikely to significantly change. There is a role for hard-core advocacy, but there also needs to be space for effective engagement.... I am not a stooge of the oil-palm industry. And I am not trying to make oil palm look better than it is.... I simply want everyone to use fact rather than fiction and be constructive rather than destructive.... Erik Meijaard is a conservation scientist based in Jakarta. He coordinates the Borneo Futures — Science for Change research program..." http://thejakartaglobe.beritasatu.com/opinion/oil-palm-evil-think/

2 November 2014: The US Halloween $2 billion candy season and palm oil critique, new forest destruction report

US campaigning on palm oil is notable in the high pint of the annual candy calendar - Halloween, where US$2 billion of candy is bought. Director of Center for Food Safety's Cool Foods Campaign criticizes the RSPO and highlights four US candy makers who use organic palm (fruit) oil, and who do not use palm oil.

Trick or Treat? The Frightening Climate Costs of Halloween Candy By Diana Donlon, Director of Center for Food Safety's Cool Foods Campaign, Updated:  10/24/2014 6:59 pm EDT; "Americans will spend more than two billion dollars on candy this Halloween, making it candy's biggest holiday.
This is fun for kids, great for dentists, and downright fantastic for the Mars family. But before you head over to the store to buy this year's bowl of treats, you need to be made aware of a really scary, but not widely recognized, fact:Many Halloween candies contain palm oil, the large-scale, monoculture production of which is driving deforestation, extinction, human rights abuses, and climate change!...The major palm oil producers and consumers established the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004, but this industry label doesn't even rule out the clearing of rainforests and there is nothing in the standard about limiting greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, in 2008, 256 environmental and human rights organizations from around the world rejected RSPO certification as fraudulent labeling. While the RSPO does hold promise, it has yet to live up to its potential.....To help you choose quality treats, we've listed four brands that won't trick you or mistreat the planet: Endangered Species Chocolate... donates 10% of its net profits to organizations that support species conservation, habitat preservation, and humanitarian efforts... Makers of organic peanut butter cups, Justin's..Like Endangered Species Chocolate, Justin's uses organic palm "fruit" oil grown by Agropalma.... Of course some companies opt not to use palm products at all. Equal Exchange is one such company. Their organic and fair trade chocolates are grown by small farmer cooperatives... Alter Eco uses pure coconut oil in their chocolate truffles. Alter Eco prides itself on the direct relationships they have with growers and on the transparency of its supply chain. .." http://www.huffingtonpost.com/diana-donlon/trick-or-treat-the-fright_b_6029884.html

Beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products from 8 countries responsible for 1/3 of forest destruction by Jeremy Hance mongabay.com, October 23, 2014; "Four commodities produced in just eight countries are responsible for a third of the world's forest loss, according to a new report. Those familiar with the long-standing effort to stop deforestation won't be surprised by the commodities named: beef, palm oil, soy, and wood products (including timber and paper). Nor will they be very surprised by most of the countries: Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Papua New Guinea, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.  "The trend is clear, the drivers of deforestation have been globalized and commercialized", said co-author Martin Persson with Chalmers University of Technology....  The report, commissioned by the Center for Global Development (CGD), found that these four commodities from the eight select countries were responsible for the loss of 3.9 million hectares of forest, an area about the size of Switzerland, in just one year: 2009. Moreover, the loss of these forests emitted 1.7 gigatons of CO2 during 2009 as well...."
Read more at http://news.mongabay.com/2014/1023-hance-commodities-deforestation.html#CditGdJMPfiMAYBX.99
  • Trading Forests: Quantifying the Contribution of Global Commodity Markets to Emissions from Tropical Deforestation - Working Paper 384 10/22/14, Working Papers By Martin Persson,   Sabine Henders,  and  Thomas Kastner; http://www.cgdev.org/publication/trading-forests-quantifying-contribution-global-commodity-markets-emissions-tropical. CGD was founded in November 2001 by Edward Scott Jr., C. Fred Bergsten, and Nancy Birdsall. A technology entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former senior US government official, Ed Scott provided the vision and a significant financial commitment that made the creation of the Center possible.

9 October 2014:

Silence of the pandas - You've seen the programme, now read the facts! "In late June, the major German public broadcaster ARD aired a 45 minute documentary on WWF called The Pact with the Panda, in its German version.  An English language version of the programme under the title The Silence of the Pandas has since been posted online.... Here are just a few examples of misleading or inaccurate claims contained in The Pact with the Panda (there are many):
  • WWF gave its agreement to industry plans for the conversion of 9 million hectares of West Papua to palm oil plantations.
  • WWF collected money for orang-utans but had no orang-utan projects in Borneo.
  • WWF certified as sustainable a 14,500 hectare palm oil plantation where only 80 ha of forest had been preserved.
  • WWF has a partnership with Monsanto.
  • WWF has "given its blessing" to genetically modified soy...."
http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/press_releases/silence_pact_pandas_wwf.cfm - accessed 9 October 2014.

Greenwash Circus: Debat (1) - Huismann with WWF rep; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VUo9XkHCfbI&feature=share&list=UURLvwt1DY-XQl9k82AoTPSQ&index=4

In a similar vein: Watch the Book Trailer for This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate By Naomi Klein - August 20th, 2014; "This Changes Everything will be in stores September 16 and is available for pre-order. For more information, tour dates, or to buy the book: thischangeseverything.org/ Forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better. 

In her most provocative book yet, Naomi Klein tackles the most profound threat humanity has ever faced: the war our economic model is waging against life on earth..."  http://www.naomiklein.org/main

5 October 2014:

WWF International accused of 'selling its soul' to corporations by John Vidal, The Observer, Saturday 4 October 2014 12.44 BST; "Pandaleaks writer says conservation group has forged links with business which is using it to 'greenwash' their operations...The allegations are made in an explosive book previously barred from Britain. The Silence of the Pandas became a German bestseller in 2012 but, following a series of injunctions and court cases, it has not been published until now in English. Revised and renamed Pandaleaks, it will be out next week.... Its author, Wilfried Huismann, says the Geneva-based WWF International has received millions of dollars from its links with governments and business. Global corporations such as Coca-Cola, Shell, Monsanto, HSBC, Cargill, BP, Alcoa and Marine Harvest have all benefited from the group's green image only to carry on their businesses as usual.....Huismann argues that by setting up "round tables" of industrialists on strategic commodities such as palm oil, timber, sugar, soy, biofuels and cocoa, WWF International has become a political power that is too close to industry and in danger of becoming reliant on corporate money.....The book also argues that WWF, which was set up by Prince Philip and Prince Bernhart of the Netherlands in 1961, runs an elite club of 1,001 of the richest people in the world, whose names are not revealed. Industrialists, philanthropists and ultra-conservative, upper-class naturalists, they are said to make up an "old boys' network with influence in the corridors of global and corporate and policy-making power"....The WWF maintains that the environment can only be protected in dialogue with people involved in extractive and polluting industries. "Pandaleaks is the book of a discredited German television documentary that disregarded most of the basic norms and standards of journalism. It is not factual and does not present a representative picture of WWF," said a spokesman.... "We don't believe we 'sold our soul' at any point, but it is true that we are now much choosier about which interests we accept donations from and which interests we work with. We are in the final stages of a several year project upgrading our global transparency and accountability standards for business partnerships."The spokesman also defended the organisation's record in relation to energy companies such as Shell and on the relocation of indigenous peoples. "Globally, WWF was actively exiting relationships with fossil fuel companies more than a decade ago. Less than 10% [of income] came from corporates in 2013. For WWF International, the proportion of corporate funding was 6% in 2013. WWF still has the '1001 club', as one of a number of vehicles for donations to WWF International...." http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/oct/04/wwf-international-selling-its-soul-corporations/

Book info here: http://www.amazon.com/PandaLeaks-The-Dark-Side-WWF/dp/1502366541/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412516184&sr=8-1&keywords=pandaleaks

Documentary film here: http://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/wwf_the_silence_of_the_pandas/

Sustainable palm oil - RSPO vs Greenpeace, Greenpeace targets, French nutrition policy, Club of Rome

On the recent RSPO meeting in Europe, interesting excerpts include the following, and we put contextual comments in blue:

the (palm oil) sector needs "violent endangerment" to keep the debate going

Marks & Spencer's sustainable development manager Fiona Wheatley: "food businesses and consumers didn't understand the impact emerging economics could fact if pressures to source 100% sustainable palm oil built too quickly... (RSPO) has created a lifeline between partners who have had not contact before... some companies and brands (are looking) for alternative partnerships[1]...  we need to make sure we have a stronger standard... we sometimes need those different opinions and a bit of violent endangerment to keep things moving... and aspirations high..." - this seems to refer to the RSPO vs TFT-Greenpeace competition over market share in sustainability programs. This has even resulted in RSPO issuing an open letter to ask TFT to collaborate with them. It is interesting that a duopoly in non-Europe biofuel certification is not thought well of and the monopolistic approach is preferred (different from what is seen in soy sustainability). Here RSPO's call for TFT collaboration: http://www.rspo.org/file/tft/TFT_RSPO_open_letter_FINAL.pdf  and Mongabay talks about it here: http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0527-rspo-tft.html.

Cynthia Ong of Land Empowerment Animals and People: "pressures from western (NGOs) such as Greenpeace, were frustrating producers in Malaysia and Indonesia... communities say they want to plant oil palm because it will put food on their tables and the best option we can present them is RSPO certification - ditto

Pat Vendetti, Greenpeace senior forest campaigner: "our focus is on ending deforestation and not tearing down the palm oil industry and the RSPO... another myth is there's a neo-colonial plot.. it's too convenient an excuse for the Malaysian government to trot out...we need to change the mind-set of the Malaysian government..." - sustainability is widely viewed from industry as a non-tariff barrier and it has raised such concerns that the WTO is trying to define "private standards" and that the UN is also looking it; as they note that these typically end up disadvantaging small and marginal producers.

Puvan Selvanathan, UN global compact head of sustainable agriculture (former Sime Darby): "all of the energy we put into debate.. could be better spent looking for a solution.. the message of doing a good thing is being lost in the heat and the emotion. It's a tough sell to have one group of people to tell you how to live your life..."  - in palm oil sustainability, the approach has been driven more by corporate to NGO negotiations (this differs from soy, where there is more government and industry association mediation, on the buy as well as the sell side). Although it is labelled as multi-stakeholder, there are some gaps: a) government is not involved, resulting in problematic differences in the private standard versus regulations and laws; and b) practitioners tell us that actual workings of working groups is that a handful of companies may represent the industry but with few updates to all fellow members, resulting in surprise new major policy administrative changes. Specialists reckon that NGOs set more dedicated resources to these negotiations than does the palm oil industry. Also, some point to the tendency that controversial topics (that growers disfavor) are escalated until they end up offered for General Assembly voting (where voting numbers and blocs are against growers); giving a sense of powerlessness to the minority growers who bear the cost of compliance. Notwithstanding these concerns, lead palm oil industry companies, especially those based in Malaysia and Singapore are leading the push for sustainable certification via RSPO or the new TFT non-certification program.

Robert Hoster, Cargill Refined Oils Europe trading director: "the whole chain needed to be involved in sustainable palm oil from the start.. we need to make sure we make sustainability more affordable.. we need to ensure its cost effective to grow..."  - this might refer to the approach taken by private standards to engage with corporations in order to effect faster change and the problem of the low level engagements with government. This is starting to worry politicians as sustainability is reaching the stage that large private standards and their commercial partners are pointing toward supply-chain shifts that may marginalize and/or bring complicated and costly certification to smallholders and farmers with small estates; note Australia beef worries here, /khorreports-palmoil/2014/05/politicians-worry-about-wwf-roundtables.html. Clearly they are an important voting base. We also heard earlier in the year that proposals by a smallholder certifying "technical NGO" to introduce loans to Indonesian palm smallholders (so that they can pay for the certification process and more?) has raised concerns among policy makers there. Cost of certification is a prime concern for small producers where it weighs heavier. For example, the RSPO costing for group smallholder includes some fees of US$10,000 periodically. It would be useful for the cost-benefit for smallholders to be reviewed independently.

 News link: http://www.foodnavigator.com/Market-Trends/Palm-oil-debate-in-quotes

Greenpeace indicates its latest strategy and targets here, http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/deforestation-palm-oil-more-greenwash-greenpeace - Annisa Rahmawati is a forest campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia: "Business as usual cannot continue - Greenpeace is deeply concerned that well-known players in the RSPO are pretending membership alone confers a glow of sustainability. It is waiting to see what public action the RSPO will take on the cases raised with it and how it will strengthen its standards.... In the meantime, Greenpeace demands prominent RSPO members including IOI, KLK, Musim Mas, RGE group and Sime Darby to stop the bulldozers and urgently implement a no deforestation policy. It will continue to push more palm oil consumers such as Kao (the Japanese personal care company behind brands such as John Frieda and Bioré) and others to clean up their supply chains.... To reach this tipping point has not been easy. Some elements want to portray the shift to responsible palm as an attack on the palm oil industry itself, as a call to boycott palm oil or a form or "green protectionism". To them, Greenpeace says this: don't ignore the crisis – don't ignore the fact that Sumatra is burning and Papua's pristine forests are disappearing. Recognise there is a problem, and choose to be part of the solution. Palm oil can be grown responsibly, and must make a genuine contribution to Indonesia's development."

At the same time, new proposals on French nutrition policy worries palm oil interests: "two French politicians, Senator Yves Daudigny and Senator Catherine Deroche, which is set to pose a major threat to Malaysia’s top commodity export in Europe, according to palm oil industry market observers.... Both Daudigny and Deroche had presented a report to the French Senate calling for an introduction of “behavioural” taxes on food and beverages deemed dangerous to the public health in France.... Nutella is a chocolate and hazelnut spread made by Italian company Ferrero that is extremely popular in France, which accounts for 26% (about 100 million jars) of the product’s world consumption.... However, thanks to the quick action and successful engagements by the Malaysian government and palm oil industry players, the Nutella tax proposal was gunned down in December 2012.... So this year, Daudigny is trying a new attempt to champion his cause by roping in Deroche to propose that all taxes of vegetable oils in France be “harmonised”.... http://www.thestar.com.my/Business/Business-News/2014/06/07/Another-antipalm-oil-drive-French-politicians-calling-for-new-taxes-on-food-and-beverages-deemed-dan/

On the big picture, it's interesting to see this:  Scientists vindicate 'Limits to Growth' – urge investment in 'circular economy'; http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/04/scientists-limits-to-growth-vindicated-investment-transition-circular-economy

Politicians worry about WWF roundtables?

More worries over trade control tilting against primary producers from Down Under...

IN SENATOR Ron Boswell's last big Senate speech before his retirement next month, he takes a massive - if predictable - swipe at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)....  "WWF: 'privatisating' production - SENATOR RON BOSWELL," 15 May, 2014 07:45 PM; http://www.queenslandcountrylife.com.au/news/agriculture/general/opinion/wwf-privatisating-production/2698613.aspx; "There is a co-ordinated campaign by WWF and others to coerce industries into certification schemes... Time for producers to take control... Apart from my farewell next month, this is the last substantial speech I shall make in the Senate. I have thought long and hard about what I should say. What I want to do is leave all Australian primary producers with a warning: take action now to maintain producer control over the production and marketing of your product. I have been in the Senate for 31 years. All that time, I have defended and promoted primary producers. They are wonderful people, feeding and clothing our nation and many more people overseas, generating vital wealth for the benefit of all Australians. However, they are under threat. That threat comes in the form of a long-term strategy by a powerful and sophisticated combination of environmental zealots and major corporations that would effectively control primary production practices worldwide......"

Other Australia worries about its primary producers versus NGOs here: /khorreports-palmoil/2014/04/australia-resource-industries-seek-ban.html

Australia resource industries seek ban of market boycotts (update 1)

3 May 2014:

Ben & Jerry's referred to consumer watchdog over save-the-reef campaign; theguardian.com, Friday 2 May 2014 06.58 BST; http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/may/02/ben-jerrys-referred-to-consumer-watchdog-over-save-the-reef-campaign; Ice-cream company’s ‘mistruths could cost jobs’, says Queensland LNP senator elect who has written to the ACCC; "Queensland LNP senator elect Matthew Canavan said he wrote to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on Tuesday to consider the company’s conduct... “Australia has strict laws to protect consumers against misleading and deceptive behaviour,” he said. “These mistruths could cost jobs and development in regional Queensland. It’s irresponsible behaviour from a company that should know better.”.. The Queensland premier Campbell Newman also said on Thursday: “The World Wildlife Fund can make such false assertions, so be it. But a company is bound by consumer law and can’t make false and misleading statements and they are making false and misleading statements when it comes to this.”...

3 April 2014

Australian government may ban environmental boycotts; Guardian Australia: Parliamentary secretary says there is 'an appetite' for removing environmental groups' exemption from secondary boycotts ban; Thursday 3 April 2014; http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/02/coalition-review-of-consumer-laws-may-ban-environmental-boycotts: "Coalition MPs and industry groups are using a review of competition laws to push for a ban on campaigns against companies on the grounds that they are selling products that damage the environment, for example by using old-growth timber or overfished seafood....  Groups including the Australian Forest Products Association and parts of the seafood industry are also preparing submissions to the review arguing that environmental campaigns against companies selling products made from native timbers or “unsustainable” fishing amount to a “secondary boycott” and should be unlawful....  But the new state Liberal government intends to undo the forest “peace deal”, expand sawlog production and stop environmental campaigns through tough new state laws aimed at protesters. It is also lobbying the federal government for a change to competition laws to stop market-based campaigns.... Colbeck said he would be suggesting a further change to competition law to increase the power of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to police general claims made by environmental groups about particular types of products “to ensure that they are truthful”.... “They can say what they like, they can campaign about what they like, they can have a point of view, but they should not be able to run a specific business-focused or market-focused campaign, and they should not be able to say things that are not true,” he said.... Groups like GetUp! and Markets for Change are currently exempt from section 45D of the Consumer and Competition Act which prohibits actions that stop a third person buying goods from another....

Tasmanian forests set for logging as Liberals push ahead with repeal; State government unveils plan to tear up historic deal between industry and greens protecting 400,000 hectares of forest; Australian Associated Press; theguardian.com, Tuesday 8 April 2014; http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/08/tasmanian-forests-logging-liberals-repeal

Khor Reports comment: Interesting to see a possible push back from Australia industry, state and federal government over market boycott campaigns by domestic NGOs. In contrast, palm oil has been facing significant market campaigns, but at a transnational level. Actions have been taken by palm oil producers in the French trade tribunal, for instance, but negative market actions continued and the number of products affected continued to rise. Also interesting that this is the second time in as many months that we read of a competition act possibly used in relation to the sustainability issue.

Unilever - Wilmar push for supply chain change

Wilmar the largest trader of palm oil in the world has come out to change its supply chain promise, signing a deal to secure its position supplying to Unilever. The Anglo-Dutch consumer goods behemoth, ranked #2 in the world after Nestle, has in recent years taken a lead in promoting the principle of sustainability in its materials sourcing. Unilever has helped lead the RSPO from its inception nearly 10 years ago. Its CEO recently received a special award: the 2013 World Wildlife Fund Duke of Edinburgh Conservation Medal for Unilever’s efforts to reduce environmental damage. Dutchman, "Polman is the first CEO of a major multinational company to receive the Duke of Edinburgh conservation award since it began in 1970," Bloomberg reported. 

Wilmar has long faced grumblings from the NGO sector for not practicing sustainable sourcing for its third-party purchases, which are overwhelmingly bigger than its own internal production area. With it's new promise, the giant trader now faces the challenge of rationalizing its supply-chain. The question is this: how will Wilmar achieve this without downsizing its business? In principle, traceability with high level promises is not easy to achieve for large traders with complex supply chains. Industry talk in recent weeks has been about the top 15-20 producers being asked to sign on to a new RSPO+++ manifesto, most probably using the TFT/Greenpeace principles; this being the new leader in palm oil sustainability ahead of the RSPO. If the key palm oil producers accede, one can assume that Wilmar will be "home and dry" without having to make much of a change in its business size and its costing. Wilmar's promises can be fulfilled by tough and possibly cost-raising action on the part of its suppliers. Thus, we should await future announcements from the palm oil industry players. In what manner will they all come out in support of Unilever-Wilmar's promises? 

For producers moving fast into such a high grade sustainability push, could this bring on the faster convergence of unit costing fro large-scale corporate SE Asia palm oil vs Brazil soybean oil? For the rest of the palm oil industry (those ranking below the top #15-20), the supply-chain change they face may be significant. Industry policy makers should be concerned at how a traceable, no-peat, no deforestation palm oil supply chain will look like.

Khor Report thinks that this could mean that each palm oil mill in the region will need to be supply-chain risk categorized for the new Unilever-Wilmar protocol. This could segment SE Asia into different market production zones with resulting discount/premium regions. Could there be negative implications for the independent sector (i.e. non-integrated and non-large producer)? How will the new protocol be operationalized? Will a November 1995 baseline apply and will high carbon stock measurement be made to effect a palm oil mill sustainability risk categorization exercise? In this regard, the Golden Agri/Sinar Mas pilot done by TFT/Greenpeace will be instructive. What requirements will new regions such as Africa face?

The questions are only starting. We will need to better understand the Unilever-Wilmar protocol by way of what the large producers come up with in this potentially market shifting move in the palm oil supply-chain. Other commodities too are facing new pressures from an ascendant and increasingly well-funded green movement that is also playing a bigger consulting role (in a highly important and potentially self-funding and self-perpetuating shift). In relative terms, the corporate sector has been scrabbling for footing while the independent and smallholder sectors are adrift. What is notable in the palm oil industry is the new apparent side-lining of the WWF, often reckoned as a realistic NGO, while the TFT/Greenpeace duo may emerge as key supply-chain policy maker.

News source: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-05/palm-oil-leader-wilmar-bans-deforestation-in-sustainability-push.html ; “We can produce palm oil in a way that protects forests, clean air and local communities, all while contributing to development and prosperity in palm oil growing regions,” Chief Executive Officer Kuok Khoon Hong said in the statement. “There is a strong and rapidly growing demand for traceable, deforestation-free palm oil, and we intend to meet it as a core element of our growth strategy.” 5 December 2013.