Occupy Unilever – Joint Press Release from Rettet den Regenwald, ROBIN WOOD and Watch Indonesia
Environmentalists and victims of the palm oil industry have been protesting in front of the German Central Office of Unilever in Hamburg since this morning. The activists unfurled a banner and erected a makeshift hut in front of the entrance to the building. Together with activists from the organisations ROBIN WOOD, Rettet den Regenwald and Watch Indonesia they are demanding an end to landgrabbing and destruction of rainforest for palm oil monocultures. Unilever uses palm oil in many of its products including Rama margarine. As one of the largest corporate consumers of palm oil, Unilever can be considered complicit in the disaster occurring in the tropics.
Among the nine Indonesian protesters is an indigenous family of the Suku Anak Dalam from Sumatra: Ida, Biden and their one year old son. They are demanding that land be returned which was stolen from them and clearcut by Unilever's palm oil supplier Wilmar International. Their village Sungai Buayan and two others like it now lie surrounded by palm oil plantations. Just August paramilitary and security forces from Wilmar's daughter firm Asiatic Persada destroyed these villages. Armed forces fired guns without regard to life and property and flattened the houses in the villages. „They want us to go away,“ Ida laments. „But how can we leave our ancestors? We want the land back that the palm oil concern stole from us.“ „Wilmar must atone for their actions and be held accountable for our suffering. Never again should people be driven from their homes,“ Bidin demands.
In Borneo Unilever's supplier Wilmar is also responsible for turning huge areas of rainforest into palm oil monocultural wastelands. „Those who try to defend themselves and their land are criminalized and imprisoned,“ reports Nordin from the organisation Save our Borneo.
Unilever knows of the vast devastation caused by its supplier Wilmar, is aware that the company is involved in hundreds of cases of landgrabbing and is not ignorant to the fact that Wilmar is destroying the last remaining rainforests in Indonesia. Yet Unilever continues to purchase palm oil from Wilmar.
Unilever is careful to portray an image of a green model company. They promise to use only sustainable palm oil in their products by 2015. Verification of this should be delivered by the RSPO seal. However, the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) is dominated by industry itself. The profiteers of destructive land grabbing and deforestation, Unilever and Wilmar, are board members of the RSPO. The standards for the seal are accordingly slack and, according to these, even palm oil from land where forest has been transformed into industrial monocultures can still be called sustainable. Even the use of highly toxic agricultural chemicals, such as the herbicide Paraquat, whose use has been banned in the EU, are permitted. Companies who, like Wilmar, use violence against local people are not hindered by the RSPO in using the seal for their greenwashing campaigns.
„The perpetrators issue their own certificates as to how sustainable they are. But soon no one will believe them anymore. Sustainable palm oil is a blatant lie,“ says Peter Gerhardt, ROBIN WOOD's Tropical Forest expert. „It is our goal that Unilever no longer offer consumers products with palm oil from landgrabbing and rainforest destruction and that they sever all ties with their supplier Wilmar.“
ROBIN WOOD, Peter Gerhardt, 01577 / 78 288 25
ROBIN WOOD, Ute Bertrand, 0171 / 835 95 15
Rettet den Regenwald, Christiane Zander, 0170 / 96 66 431
Please contact us if you are interested in interviewing members of the Indonesian delegation.
A current interview with Bidin, as well as background information about palm oil and rainforest destruction in Indonesia, can be found on the homepages of Rettet den Regenwald and ROBIN WOOD: www.regenwald.org and www.robinwood.de/palmoel
Film material can be provided on request.