Every household item like your morning toothpaste, “Colgate-Palmolive”, soap, skincare item, has a brutal and tragic story behind it; courtesy of companies like Nestle and Unilever. Here’s how your favorite brands are now responsible for deforestation in Indonesia:
10,000 forest-fires have rooted in farming for palm oil in Indonesia, according to the latest Greenpeace report. The companies that are in business for palm oil and its sale world-wide are connected with groups that use illegal measures to derive the palm oil. The dry weather leading to forest fire is a major threat itself; deforestation is only adding oil to the already existent crisis. The slash and burn technique used in the process has lead to the cause of extreme cases of forest fires. To produce abundant palm oil, the shrubbery of such plantations is burned leading to the spread of forest fires for weeks. In August, the Minister of Industry and Palm Oil Supervision in Indonesia confirmed that 80% of such land used for palm oil production has faced this illegal method. From July to October this year 8 lakh hectares of forest have been destroyed in the bargain for palm oil as per the Greenpeace report.
The Indonesian government has stated that multiple regions of Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Papua New Guinea will also suffer from forest fires although it isn’t because of the forest fires in Indonesia but because of the dry weather causing forest fires in these places. It is easy to estimate the amount of fumes that the added fires caused by forest destruction for palm oil will contribute to surrounding areas.
Associated illegal groups
Greenpeace goes on to mention that there are 30 such groups associated with palm oil extraction and supply in Indonesia. They also exposed that Nestle purchases the same from 28 such groups, Unilever from 27 and P&G from at least 22. Animal lives have been compromised. One can only imagine the reparations the wildlife had to pay for the palm oil in your soap and snacks. The Sumatran elephants, orangutans and tigers lost their homes to such atrocities. This has created a major crisis in wildlife diversity over the years.
The tragic case of laborers
A report published back in 2016 by Amnesty International connects these brands and states that there is nothing sustainable about the way palm oil is derived as previously stated by these companies. It goes on to mention that the groups that supply palm oil in Indonesia employ kids as young as eight years old in hazardous circumstances in palm oil extraction. This report exposed extreme conditions under which palm oil labourers in Indonesia had to work. It stated that women were working long hours, with wages as low as $2.50 a day; a way low minimum wage and without any form of health insurance. There were severe cases of injuries (onset of Parkinsonism) caused by a chemical named paraquat, which is banned by the European Union for use but still applied in plantations. Workers were exposed to forest fires leading to respiratory problems and were penalized for not being able to meet the everyday target of retrieving the pre-agreed amount of products from trees as tall as 20 meters.
Wilmar International: Lying through their teeth
Wilmar International is one such major name that has been associated with the scandal long back in Amnesty International’s report and has also been alleged by Green Peace, to carry out illegal means to retrieve palm oil. Although Wilmar International has mentioned time and time again that it uses sustainable means to carry on with the palm oil business, the cases of loss of habitats, low living conditions of labourers and the loss of diversity we observe through news portals are the only fraction of the epic destruction of all-natural forces going on. Associated company names that have surfaced in Amnesty and Greenpeace include Nestle and Unilever as big-players. There is no sustainable measure that can be taken without considering the lives of humans and animals at stake here which profiteering giants are not ready to compromise with.