Friday, November 1, 2013

Interlude, with Liberty Mutual

Add this to the “Where Are they Now?” follow-up: documents that CR (corporate responsibility) departments put out extolling the virtues of the new “sustainable” palm oil business, but who all remain silent when I ask them if they have followed up or if they have an accurate way to determine if any of the regulations are being followed.

Sent at the end of September:

Dear Liberty Mutual/Responsibility Project staff:
Our foundation supports the only local sustainable livelihoods agency in Aceh province, Indonesia. I just read your 2010 article entitled “A Better Future For Palm Oil.”  I’ve been researching this topic extensively, since the Acehnese agency that we support (Jembatan Masa Depan/ has been implementing a women’s cocoa farmer project since 2009 adjacent to one of the largest “protected” rainforests in the world.  The area is currently being decimated by those same palm oil concerns that have reportedly received “sustainability certificates” from RSPO, the body to which your article refers.  While an admirable effort, the regulations that RSPO has established are difficult if not impossible to monitor, and do not take into account the smallholder farmers living in the area.  We’re wondering, then, if your staff ever has a chance to follow up on these articles to determine, for example, if in fact the Dutch pledge to import only “sustainable” palm oil really did translate into better economic conditions for indigenous residents and better stewardship of natural resources or, as we are finding, is mostly just words on paper.
I’d love to send you more information about a truly sustainable initiative on the buffer of the rainforest, if your department would be interested.  Thanks for your time.

So far, no response.  Surprise!

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