Palm oil company Korindo stripped of FSC label

Aerial view: Clearing forest for Korindo oil palm plantations in Papua Korindo has cleared rainforests for oil palm plantations in Papua. (© Mighty Earth)

Jul 16, 2021

The Indonesian palm oil and timber company Korindo is losing its FSC seal. According to the FSC, the reason for the expulsion is that Korindo cleared forests for oil palm plantations and contributed to the degradation and potential destruction of high conservation value forests. Korindo is also accused of violating the participation rights of local people.

The case against Korindo was triggered by a complaint submitted to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) in 2017 by the NGO Mighty Earth. A subsequent FSC investigation found unequivocal evidence that Korindo had destroyed 30,000 hectares of forest of high conservation value. It also determined that the company had almost certainly violated the traditional rights and human rights of local people for its own benefit.

Korindo then agreed to remedy the uncovered environmental and social grievances and was initally allowed to keep the seal. Then came the about-face: “It had become an untenable situation for FSC that we were not able to verify improvements in Korindo’s social and environmental performance against the agreed preliminary conditions. This is why the Board decided to disassociate,” said FSC International Director General Kim Carstensen.

Kwangyul Peck, Chief Sustainability Officer of the Korindo Group, said the decision came as a “great surprise”. The BBC quotes Peck as being “very shocked” by the development. This reaction is noteworthy because the company threatened to take legal action against the FSC in 2019, and an FSC report on Korindo's abuses was only published in a considerably abridged form.

The termination by the FSC takes effect on October 16.

In the Indonesian province of Papua, the last large rainforests in Southeast Asia have so far remained largely intact. But for some years now, agricultural corporations have been deforesting land on a grand scale, especially for oil palm plantations. Korindo is one of the biggest players in this regard, controlling more land than any other company. 60,000 hectares of forest have already been cleared on its concessions – an area the size of Chicago or Seoul.

FSC is supposed to guarantee responsible forest management, but it has so many flaws that numerous environmentalists criticize it as greenwashing. However, considering how well-known the seal is among businesses and consumers, the loss is likely to be quite painful for Korindo.

Korindo has so far been able to rely on the FSC seal to greenwash its activities, but no longer. The company says it will seek to be reinstated by the FSC, however.

Korindo is currently trying to stifle criticism of its business practices by taking us to court in Hamburg, Germany, for publicizing its destruction of rainforests in Papua. The lawsuit is clearly intended to intimidate Rainforest Rescue and have a chilling effect on other activists – a textbook example of a strategic lawsuit against public participation, or SLAPP.