In 2013, a Greenpeace investigation revealed a shocking sight in the midst of two Indonesian palm oil plantations: the remains of multiple endangered orangutans scattered throughout and just outside land owned by two major suppliers. One of the companies, Bumitama, has expanded into what used to be a protected nature preserve, and intends to continue growing its development by a whopping 15,000 hectacres a year. The other company, BW Plantation Group, supplies palm oil to Procter & Gamble, a major multinational corporation that uses the oil in its shampoos and household products.
Image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace
Conservationists have known for years that irresponsible palm oil production is driving endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger to the brink of extinction, but this grisly find is shocking even to seasoned veterans. Some of the remains were found buried in shallow graves, hinting that the animals may not have died of natural causes — after all, orangutans don’t bury their dead, but humans certainly do. These remains were first found in early 2013 and continued to surface as late as November, showing that orangutan killings are an ongoing problem in the areas surrounding what’s left of the Tanjung Puting National Park.
Greenpeace has asked the companies involved for clarification on the dead orangutans, but has to receive any satisfactory explanation. Now, along with a group of NGOs, Greenpeace is urging Procter & Gamble and other US companies which rely on palm oil to pledge only to purchase it from reputable suppliers who have taken demonstrated steps toward sustainable harvest. The organization believes that palm oil can be sustainably produced without any further habitat destruction, and that sustainable harvests are essential to helping Indonesia develop economically.
If you’re interested in avoiding brands that are complicit in deforestation and the deaths of endangered species, consider purchasing from one of these companies which have already taken steps to sustainability: L’Oreal, Nestle, and Unilever have all pledged to clean up their supply chains. Hopefully, if enough of us take our dollars elsewhere, other big brands will be forced to take a long, hard look at how they’re operating.
Last image © Ulet Ifansasti/Greenpeace