Why IOI Is No Longer “The Worst Company You’ve Never Heard Of”

What a difference a season makes. It was just three months ago that we called IOI (and its North American division IOI Loders Croklaan) “the worst company you’ve never heard of.” No kidding, this is the banner we’ve been running up atop our site for the past three months.

Cut to this morning, when IOI, which trades about 10-15 percent of the world’s palm oil, announced a zero deforestation policy.

You can read the official Forest Heroes’ press release on the announcement here.

Today’s announcement indicates that IOI is transforming from “the worst company you’ve never heard of” to a palm oil giant that seems to be recognizing the importance of forest conservation. 

On top of our efforts to bring IOI to the public eye through our online campaign, Forest Heroes actively campaigned to get the company to change its destructive practices. A year ago we released a report with Friends of the Earth called Commodity Crimes that documented IOI’s abuses.  Our Deforestation Doughnuts report, released in June with partners SumOfUs.org, revealed how IOI was a supplier of irresponsible palm oil to the doughnut industry.  

image_asset_9419IOI’s practices were even targeted by Forest Heroes at summer campaign events outside of Krispy Kreme grand openings. Like this great young Forest Hero over to the right! 

Meanwhile, Forest Heroes organizers were also reaching out to IOI’s biggest customers worldwide, to educate them about the big problems in their palm oil supply chains. Plantations operated by IOI and its affiliates were responsible for some of the worst destruction of diverse rainforest habitats and carbon-rich peatlands. One such plantation, Ladang Sawit Mas (LSM), operated by Bumitama under the IOI corporate umbrella, was cleared illegally, and the plight of the orangutans that had relied on those forests were well documented and appalling. 

We hope that today marks the start of a new era in IOI’s relationship with forests, wildlife, and forest peoples. 

Forest Heroes Chairman Glenn Hurowitz argued that the list of responsible palm oil producing laggards is getting smaller and smaller, and that “There’s no longer any excuse for responsible consumer companies to purchase from rogue actors like Sime Darby or Musim Mas that continue to destroy rainforests.”

Notably, IOI Loders Croklaan is the third signatory of the highly criticized “Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto” to embrace going further, leaving only Sime Darby and Musim Mas as the remaining holdouts.

On Tuesday, our allies at the Rainforest Action Network released a report called “The Last Place on Earth,” that describes how palm oil laggard Musim Mas still trades palm oil tied to the destruction of the Leuser Ecosystem, “a rich and verdant expanse of intact tropical lowland rainforests, cloud draped mountains and steamy peatlands swamps” that is also one of the most biodiverse and ancient ecosystems ever documented by science, and is the last place where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears still roam side by side.”

Similarly, Astra Agro Lestari, First Resources, Indofood, and KLK are still tied to rampant rainforest destruction, and comprise the list of “Irresponsible Suppliers” on our Green Tigers report.

In September, we cautiously celebrated the announcement by IOI affilliate Bumitama that it would commit to new forest conservation practices, but are still awaiting a comprehensive responsible sourcing policy from the company. 

IOI Loders Croklaan says its policy applies to its parent company, IOI Group, as well as all its suppliers and joint venture partners. Now IOI Group should formally adopt the policy, and given this company’s track record, Forest Heroes will be monitoring implementation by IOI carefully.  But we are hopeful with today’s announcement that IOI has turned a new leaf.  

On November 13, 2014

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