Astra retains link to supplier with ‘busy years ahead’ clearing Papua's forest

(foresthints.news) - A major company listed on the Indonesia Stock Exchange, PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJT), has lived up to the statement made in its 2013 annual report of 'busy years ahead', by continuing to clear Papua's intact forest in order to expand its palm oil plantations there, for which it has invested USD 12 million.

Starting in 2013, two ANJT palm oil companies, whose concessions cover a combined area of more than three quarters the size of Singapore, major parts of which comprise high carbon stock (HCS) forest, have been continuously developing and extending their palm oil plantations in the Papuan forest.

After the publication of an NGO report on this issue in May 2015, several palm oil giants - such as Wilmar, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), Asian Agri/Apical and Musim Mas - were urged to take firm action by gradually phasing out the purchasing of palm oil and palm kernel from ANJT.

Data provided to foresthints.news by Rainforest Foundation Norway (Mar 10) shows that the major palm oil conglomerates mentioned above have indeed not been included in ANJT’s customer list since the first quarter of 2016.

This situation contrasts sharply with the case of Astra Agro Lestari (AAL), a joint venture with Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK). This joint venture company has instead ramped up its purchasing volume from ANJT since the first quarter of 2016, ironically not long after Astra announced an update of its sustainability policy in September 2015.

Anja Lillegraven, Head of the Asia and Oceania Division at Rainforest Foundation Norway, asserted (Feb 28) that “Astra’s failure to implement its own policy is unacceptable and demonstrates that nice policies are not enough.”

She emphasized that Astra’s lack of a detailed implementation plan for its own sustainability policy indicates that the company has allocated insufficient resources for its sustainability work.

The following Google Earth images, which were provided by Greenomics Indonesia, illustrate the loss of HCS forest in parts of the two palm oil concessions belonging to ANJT in Papua from 2014 to 2016.

It is not only Rainforest Foundation Norway that has condemned the low level of commitment to sustainability displayed by Astra. Glenn Hurowitz, CEO of Mighty, similarly decried (Feb 28) the failure of Astra, Indonesia’s second largest palm oil producer, to substantiate that it has adequately addressed high risk third-party suppliers like ANJT.

Ongoing clearing until 2020

Considering that there remains significant HCS forest in the two palm oil concessions belonging to ANJT yet to be cleared, and given the listed company’s propensity to perpetuate business-as-usual practices, Greenomics predicts that the clearing of the HCS forest distributed among ANJT’s concessions will continue until 2020.

“Why until 2020? Because ANJT is still aiming to expand one of its new concessions located near to the other two concessions concerned. As such, ANJT still has some further busy years ahead clearing the Papuan forest, at least until 2020,” Vanda Mutia Dewi, Executive Director of Greenomics Indonesia, explained (Mar 10).

The three Google Earth images (2002) below shared by Greenomics depict that the HCS forest situated in ANJT’s new concession (delineated in yellow), spanning an area of more than one third the size of Singapore, remains intact. Based on USGS Landsat images in time-series, no clearing of the new concession had taken place by early March this year.

With regard to the ANJT case and how it pertains to the ineffectual implementation of Astra’s sustainability policy, Glenn made a strong appeal for Astra’s owners and investors to seriously consider the reputational risk of their supply chain being linked to ongoing deforestation practices.

Rainforest Foundation Norway summed up the dissatisfaction felt by a number of local and international NGOs about the numerous key gaps in Astra’s implementation of its own sustainability policy by delivering a strong message: “There’s been enough talk. Now we want to see real action from Astra’s sustainability policy.”