Forest Stewardship Council cuts association with Korean palm oil operator Korindo

The Forest Stewardship Council (FCS) announced on 14 July that it was ending its association with Korean timber and palm oil operator Korindo.

“Korindo was required to fulfil several conditions set by FSC [in 2019] to address inadequate past performance in their palm oil business, and to determine that no further improper activities were taking place,” FCS said in a statement. However, FSC and Korindo were not able to agree on the procedure to independently verify progress.

"We were not able to verify improvements in Korindo's social and environmental performance," FSC international director general Kim Carstensen said.

The NGO said its relationship had "become untenable" and Korindo's trademark licenses with FSC would be terminated from October.

The case began in 2017 when environmental campaign organisation Mighty Earth submitted a complaint to FSC, alleging Korindo’s involvement in deforestation, human rights abuses and destruction of high conservation values in forests that were converted into oil palm plantations in the Indonesian provinces of Papua and North Maluku.

FSC said its investigations confirmed that Korindo had converted forests to establish oil palm plantations, damaging high conservation value forests; and that Korindo had not met the organisation’s standards for free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

In November 2019, FSC set out six conditions for Korindo including a ban on land clearing and any activities in high conservation value areas.

It was the disagreement on independent verification, leading to delay’s in FSC’s ability to report on Korindo’s progress, that had led the organisation to cut its legal ties with Korindo.

Korindo chief sustainability officer Kwangyul Peck said in a statement on 15 July that the FSC’s decision “came as a great surprise”.

“Before this decision, we were in the process of working towards unconditional association with FSC. We are confident to reactivate the process as soon as possible, making this a temporary situation only,” the company said.

According to the BBC, Korindo controls more land in Papua than any other conglomerate and has cleared nearly 60,000ha of forests inside its government-granted concessions.

Korindo’s website says the group has 20,662ha of palm oil concessions in Papua and 8,444ha in North Maluku, totalling just under 30,000ha, of which 9,149ha is planted.

The company has operations in plantations (timber, palm oil and rubber); paper and forest products; construction and heavy industry; logistics; real estate; and financial services.