A Korean palm oil giant has been rejected from the world’s leading green certification body in the wake of a BBC investigation.
The BBC had earlier found evidence that the Korindo group had been buying up swathes of Asia’s largest remaining rainforests in the remote Indonesian province of Papua.
A visual analysis suggested that fires had then been deliberately set to these forests, a clear violation of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
The regulator’s tree logo – found on paper products throughout the UK and Europe – is meant to tell consumers the product is sourced from ethical and sustainable companies.
At the time of the BBC’s investigation late last year, the FSC said they would not expel Korindo but were working with the Korean company to address social and environmental problems.
But now the green body says the relationship has “become untenable” and Korindo’s trademark licenses with FSC will be terminated from October.
“We were not able to verify improvements in Korindo’s social and environmental performance,” Kim Carstensen, FSC international director general said.
He said the decision would “give us clarity and a breath of fresh air while Korindo continues its efforts to improve.”
Korindo groups chief sustainability officer Kwangyul Peck said in a statement that the company was “very shocked by the FSC decision.”
He insists they were following all the steps of “an agreed roadmap of improvements” and said despite their expulsion from the FSC “they remain committed to sustainability and human rights.”
The Korindo group strongly denies starting any fires or involvement in any human rights violations, saying it follows the law. They also insisted they paid fair compensation to tribes.
Indonesia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil – found in everything from shampoo to biscuits – and Papua is its newest frontier.
The rich forests in the remote province of Papua had until recently escaped relatively untouched, but the government has rapidly opened the area up to investors, vowing to bring prosperity to one of the poorest regions in the country.
Vast areas of forest have been cleared to make way for row upon row of oil palm trees.
Indonesia’s palm oil exports were worth about $19bn (£14bn) last year, according to data from Gapki, the nation’s palm oil association.
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