by John Vidal for the guardian.com
Large palm oil companies that have promised to act ethically have been accused of land grabbing, ignoring human rights and exploiting labour in their African and Asian plantations.
In a damning 400-page investigation, the companies are variously charged with impacting on orangutan populations, destroying tropical forest and burning and draining large tracks of peat swamp forest.
Sixteen palm oil concessions, in Indonesia, Liberia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Cameroon, all operated by members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) were visited by monitors working with international human rights groups including UK-based Forest peoples programme and Sawit Watch, from Indonesia. Local communities consistently accused the companies of not respecting their customary land rights, violating laws and court rulings and acting in such a way that encouraged conflict.
The growing global demand for palm oil has fuelled a massive expansion of plantations across the forests of southeast Asia and Africa but concerns have been growing for over a decade about the resulting environmental and social impacts. The RSPO, set up in 2004 by the industry and civil society groups including WWF, sets criteria for greener palm oil production and tries to encourage industry expansion in ways that do not cause social conflict.
This excerpt from a news article appeared in and is courtesy of the guardian.com and can be read in its entirety here.