Conflict Palm Oil Case Study – Cargill and Snack Food 20 At Risk!

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A Bumitama clearcut underway. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

Clearance of forest for a new Bumitama palm oil plantation. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

[TRIGGER WARNING] This article documents rainforest destruction and incidents of orangutan fatalities in relation to the production of Conflict Palm Oil which is regularly used by Cargill and the Snack Food 20 companies. Pictures in this article and in the full report are disturbing.

“Conflict Palm Oil” is now one of the leading causes of rainforest and peatland destruction and a leading driver of global warming. If this wasn’t bad enough, Conflict Palm Oil production is responsible for widespread human rights violations and the use of child labor and modern day slavery.

But what does it look like on the ground in Indonesia and Malaysia? And who is at risk of buying Conflict Palm Oil tied to rainforest destruction and orangutan deaths?

When thinking of how to describe Conflict Palm Oil, one company comes to mind: Bumitama Agri Ltd.

Bumitama is a palm oil company that owns and controls a number of subsidiaries that operate 198,000 hectares of palm oil plantations and processing plants in Borneo and Sumatra. 133,000 hectares of its concessions are already planted with palm oil, and the company is currently planting new areas at an aggressive rate of 15,000 hectares a year with a target of 200,000 hectares in plantations by 2017.

In its rampant expansion, Bumitama has even endangered Indonesian national parks and forest reserves, including one concession that is impacting Tanjung Puting National Park in Borneo. Bumitama’s plans to establish palm oil plantations within the Tanjung Puting National Park and its buffer zone will further degrade the ecological integrity of this critical protected area and threaten the survival of the orangutans that live in it.

Draining of peatland, seen here on a Bumitama land concession, is a major contributor to global warming.

Draining of peatland, seen here on Bumitama’s concession that includes land inside and adjacent to the Tanjung Puting National Park, is a major contributor to global warming.

The Evidence

Independent field investigations have documented the destruction of forests in three of Bumitama’s subsidiaries plantations that were the home to some of the last Borneo orangutans that remain in the wild. One of the investigations was done by the orangutan rescue organization called The Centre for Orangutan Protection (COP). A young orangutan was rescued from within a Bumitama plantation in August which, sadly, died in the care of a worker. Two weeks ago today, COP were called in to rescue another juvenile orangutan from the same area that was being cleared for a new Bumitama plantation.

There are multiple instances where Bumitama have cleared critically important forests and endangered orangutan habitat. You can see more of the evidence on this bad actor’s actions in our full report.

With their forests destroyed, orangutans are left to fend for themselves. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

With their forests destroyed, orangutans are left to fend for themselves. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

Some orangutans are rescued by the COP.

Some orangutans are rescued by the COP. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

But even rescued orangutans are harmed, like this one who has had its hands mutilated by plantation workers. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

But even rescued orangutans are harmed, like this one who has had its hands mutilated by plantation workers. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

The Snack Food 20 and Cargill

So how does Conflict Palm Oil from producers like Bumitama make its way into American snack foods? Our report shows that both the Snack Food 20 and Cargill are at risk of buying Conflict Palm Oil from Bumitama. The global agribusiness traders who purchase Conflict Palm Oil from Bumitama blend it into palm oil supply chains that feed into the global market. Cargill is a major supplier that does not require the origin of most of the palm oil it buys and trades for global markets to be known and tracked. Simply put, Cargill has no way of knowing whether it has Conflict Palm Oil that has been produced by Bumitama in its palm oil mix. Despite years of pressuring Cargill to do the right thing, it has refused to implement safeguards that would allow it to prevent Conflict Palm Oil from contaminating its global supply chain. Cargill’s is a major supplier of palm oil to consumer companies like the Snack Food 20.

Cargill needs to put fully traceable supply chain systems in place so it knows the sources of all the palm oil it handles and profits from, and can eliminate Conflict Palm Oil palm from its supply chains. Cargill should adopt a “No Trade” list and publicly list the companies, including Bumitama, that it will not buy Conflict Palm Oil from. Until Cargill implements these safeguards on its global supply chain, Bumitama can not be ruled out as a source of Conflict Palm Oil contaminating Cargill’s palm oil supply and the products of the Snack Food 20.

For some, rescue comes too late. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

Some orangutans don’t survive after losing their forest home. Photo: The Centre for Orangutan Protection

A rescued orangutan is rehabilitated by The Centre for Orangutan Protection after being found mutilated on a Bumitama plantation.

A rescued orangutan is rehabilitated by The Centre for Orangutan Protection after being found mutilated on a Bumitama plantation.

The Solution

There is a solution, and it starts with the Snack Food 20. The Snack Food 20 companies can use their purchasing power and influence to drive changes by adopting global responsible palm oil procurement policies and demanding that their suppliers, like Cargill, eliminate Conflict Palm Oil from their supply chain. (Read more about the Snack Food 20 and Conflict Palm Oil at

If the Snack Food 20 companies take these steps, and succeed in convincing traders to address the lack of transparency and traceability in palm oil supply chains, the demand for responsible palm oil will grow and provide a significant incentive for palm oil producers to fundamentally change their practices and stop destroying rainforests, worsening climate change, and violating human and labor rights.

What can traders like Cargill do?

Traders like Cargill buy massive volumes of palm oil from the companies that grow, mill, and refine palm oil. Traders are the linchpin in the international palm oil supply chain and they have uniquely influential leverage to drive a transformation in the way palm oil is produced. By failing to adopt their own global responsible palm oil procurement policy and address the lack of transparency and traceability in palm oil supply chains, traders like Cargill are placing their customers brands at risk by continuing to supply them with Conflict Palm Oil.

Traders must use their influence to drive changes in the way palm oil is produced by adopting global responsible palm oil procurement policies that insist that the palm oil they buy from refineries, mills and growers is fully traceable and not associated with deforestation, expansion onto carbon-rich peatlands or human and labor rights violations.

Volunteers on the ground are working to undo the damage Bumitama has done.

Volunteers on the ground are working to undo the damage Bumitama has done.

10 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Jeffrey Albert Geist says:

    Thank you for all your work through the years and through this truly awful situation. I’ll have to re-read to see if there’s anything I can do actively besides and/or in addition to avoiding all the foods that are found to use palm oil. If you can think of anything I can to please let me know. I’m an astrologer; if you can get the times, dates, and places of birth of any of these companies then maybe I could at least enhance some perspective a bit. One tends to feel helpless with these things. I have no money, so really can’t contribute anything significant. Am currerntly doing the best I can to attack Obama and the corporations in the US (energy Czars who own him) that are currently EXTERMINATING wolves, keeping them from being given protection status for fear of habitat protection that would limit fracking, sand tars oils, etc. and am trying to spread this concept to heads of environmental orgs; but fear that, though they agree, they won’t ultimately call out the real villains here – namely, Obama and the big fracking, sandtars oil corporations as well as other corporations who want land that should be the wolves to satisfy their fracking greed. I again bless you for your work and if anything else can be suggested by you that we can do here, please do./Jeff Geist and Jeffrey Albert Geist on FB.

  2. Dalia Hettfield says:

    Awww! Really so sad and disgusting and besides, unethical.
    Please STOP NOW!!! all that cruelty and abuse.
    Show: RESPECT, LOVE, AND COMPASSION for these Precious and Beloved Angels.
    Much LOVE and Light, Peace and Respect!!
    B.D ♥

  3. Fiona Graham says:

    Come on people, there wont be any left soon, stop now, use tourism to produce money. the govt should be paying these workers to NOT destroy the forests. There has to be another way to make a living. Please stop before it is too late. Poor orangutan’s, they mean no harm to us, but yet we destroy their lives, families and future.

    STOP the destruction!!!! PLEASE

  4. Dan Duggan says:

    As much as this is a horrible piece, it is so important for it to be ‘out there’. There is no other way that any public attention can be brought to the Orangatan’s plight. I must also thank the author for her work in the Gunn decision.

  5. Lesley H-B says:

    The infant Orangutan with the injured hand has been named Sura. Sura was rescued by COP and transferred to The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, (BOS F), Nyaru Menteng Sanctuary. BOS F have rescued two more infants since Sura. Three orphans in two weeks. So many more are kept illegally as pets, languish in squalid ‘zoos’ or die unnoticed. Thank you for highlighting the plight of the Orangutan, the Indigenous Peoples of Indonesia and all the other creatures who are losing their forest homes at such a catastrophic rate. Your ‘In your palm’ campaign is of huge significance. The insatiable greed of the Indonesian Govt. is astounding, as is their arrogance at continuing to decimate the forests, thereby increasing CO2 emissions, propelling global warming and making this an issue of world wide concern. More information about BOS F & their rescue & rehabilitation work can be found here.

  6. liana says:

    We have enough evidence of the consequences….forest devastation is causing a disequilibrium on the planet earth.if the GVs are for the people?!…indeed people has to TO DO !!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Ursula N. says:

    In the name of
    Every consumer must be informed, because PALM OIL is everywhere in food, cosmetics, body care & household products…finally to be added to the fuel being used to keep the humans “running” and “growing”.
    Global Marketing “Brainwash” is washing all consciousness away…
    Most of the humans are confined to an artificial “unconscious” existence; an existence spent on producing, reproducing and consuming…
    They are provided games, alcohol, antidepressants, fashion…and other ENTERTAINMENT (artificial entertainment produced in factories.
    They have invented MONEY, which pays for their lifetime…
    Money, backed up with Gold became the greatest value…but humans cannot eat it…or any other creature
    “Animals/humans” are feeding on other creatures – mushrooms are nourished by decomposing elements recycling the minerals for reuse in the growth of plants creating the base of food. “
    That is simply how NATURE works, that involves suffering for all…nature can be cruel…

    Some humans still have access to their consciousness (at least sporadically) Sometimes they feel the desire to live in harmony with nature but this also involves suffering…

  8. diego says:

    in indonesia, especially kalimantan its not good for them because the

    government just care about business they think its very important than

    orangutan. Please save them because you can never ever trust the bureaucrat

    in Indonesia.

    Thank you

  9. michela m. says:

    Please Join & Invite friends to Join
    ORANGUTANS: Men of the Forest
    together with Sumatran Tigers (Java & Bali Tigers already EXTINCT), Elephants, Rhinos, Clouded Leopards, Sun Bears, Wildlife, Biodiversity they face Extinction!! Only 300 Sumatran Tigers left on Earth!!!
    300 Football Fields of Rainforests are CLEARED every hour in SE Asia to produce Palm Oil: a hidden, not labelled, unhealthy ingredient in the products we buy. We MUST do WHATEVER is possible to SAVE them all!!
    AGAINST: Corporate Control, Deforestation, Illegal Logging, Global Warming, Pollution, CO2Emissions, Indigenous Peoples Displacement, Pet Trade, Bushmeat Trade, GMO Food, Vivisection, Bee-killing Pesticides… Also other Primates, as Chimpanzees, Gorillas, Gibbons, & Monkeys for Vivisection are dealt in this Group. Petitions/Info/Videos/Pics are here.
    Please!! Join, Sign, Invite friends to Join!!
    Individually: we are one DROP, all together: we are an OCEAN!! ALL together we can make a difference!! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world -Margaret Mead Thanks!! Michela

  10. boyd hore says:

    This just can’t be allowed to continue , if it does at this rate the end of the world won’t be through nuclear war , it will be through PALM OIL .

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Wildlife of the paradise Forest | Indonesian Language Class
  2. Saving Orangutans One Company at a Time |
  3. News Articles, November 2013 | Palm Oil Action Australia

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