Sustainable palm oil certifier to review Indonesian bribery claims

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been asked to review allegations that Singapore-listed Golden Agri-Resources paid bribes to cover up the improper use of protected forest in Indonesia, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports.

The complaint was filed by UK-based human rights organisation Forest Peoples Programme and US-based Elks Hill Research, the WSJ said on 20 March. The groups had used public records and satellite imagery to examine deforestation on Golden-Agri plantations and encroachment on protected areas.

The land use violations were tied to a case last year in which Indonesia’s anti-corruption commission brought bribery charges against three former Golden-Agri employees who were paid to overlook the lack of land-use permits at one of the company’s plantations. The employees were sentenced to one year and eight months in prison.

A Golden-Agri spokesperson said the company planned to contest the claims made in the RSPO complaint.

Golden-Agri is one of Indonesia’s largest palm oil producers and supplies major food companies such as Kellogg’s, Nestlé and Unilever.

A Unilever spokesperson said the company would support the RSPO’s process for handling the Golden-Agri complaint and would follow the recommendations of its complaints panel. A Nestlé spokesperson said the company prohibited its business partners, including suppliers, from engaging in bribery and corruption, and that it was monitoring the situation closely. A Kellogg’s representative said the company worked through its supply chain to ensure the palm oil it used upheld its commitment to protect forests and peatlands, as well as human and community rights.

The RSPO said it aimed to close complaint cases in about a year.