From the Frontlines of the Leuser Ecosystem to the Corporate Boardrooms: Rainforest Action Network’s Unique Approach

Note from the CREDO team: This October, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is among three amazing groups that will receive a share of our monthly grant. Funding from the CREDO community will help RAN exert public and inside pressure on corporations, banks and other institutions to stop environmentally destructive practices.

Read this important blog post from RAN’s Senior Communications Strategist Laurel Sutherlin, then click here to visit to cast your vote to help determine how we distribute our monthly grant to this organization and our other amazing grantees this October.

At Rainforest Action Network (RAN), we specialize in following the money between rainforest destruction and human rights abuses and the huge global corporations that are ultimately driving them. In Indonesia’s extraordinary Leuser Ecosystem, the last place on earth where the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, orangutan, rhino, and elephant still roam together in the same habitat, we have spent years connecting the dots from illegal Conflict Palm Oil plantations deep in the Sumatran jungle through to the household name brands that are putting that palm oil into products filling the shelves in grocery stores around the world.

At the end of September 2022, RAN released a report that conclusively establishes that deforestation linked to major consumer goods companies is on the rise, not falling, in the nationally protected Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve in Indonesia’s globally important Leuser Ecosystem. This new investigative report, Carbon Bombs Scandal: Big Brands Driving Climate Disaster for Palm Oil, reveals that public commitments by major global brands are failing to stop illegally produced palm oil from entering global supply chains.

Using evidence obtained through field investigations, satellite imagery analysis, and supply chain research, RAN’s investigation proves that palm oil produced in this protected nature reserve, in violation of corporate deforestation-free commitments, continues to make its way into the products sold by Procter & Gamble, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Unilever, PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive, Ferrero, and Nissin Foods.

For decades now, the destruction of Indonesia’s peatlands has been a globally significant driver of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. In the lead-up to the Paris COP21 climate summit in 2015, fires from peatlands being cleared for palm oil production in the country were recorded to be spewing more carbon into the sky than the entire emissions of the United States combined. Since then, the multinational brands responsible for this climate catastrophe have issued new “Forest Positive” pledges and collective plans to end deforestation and address their role in driving climate change through their consumption of palm oil.

‘Forest Positive’ pledges are not being fulfilled on the frontlines of palm oil expansion in Indonesia as these big brands have failed to break their ties to illegal palm oil grown at the expense of carbon-rich peatlands inside the Rawa Singkil Wildlife Reserve since a similar scandal exposed by RAN in 2019.

RAN is calling on the ten brands exposed in its report to immediately take action to invest in lasting solutions that protect the Singkil-Bengkung region from further destruction and end sourcing from rogue palm oil suppliers until transparent and verifiable monitoring, traceability and No Deforestation, No Peatland and No Exploitation (NDPE) compliance systems are in place.

RAN is working closely with our allies to turn up the heat on Procter and Gamble (P&G) to finally pressure the company to do the right thing and cut Conflict Palm Oil from its supply chain. Since last year, RAN has collaborated with a coalition of local activists to put regular pressure on P&G at their headquarters in Cincinnati, OH through protest, art, and community building. We are continuing to push the company with public pressure tactics, which also include flooding P&G’s executive leadership with tens of thousands of emails, postcards, and petitions from our supporters.

Our work would not be complete without also incorporating the demands of our partners on the ground in Indonesia. RAN remains committed to humanizing the impacts of deforestation and elevating the voices and stories of the frontline communities. We take leadership from Indigenous and frontline communities, support rigorous investigations on the ground and bring this evidence to the company decision makers through the media, well-researched reports, and directly to their boardroom. This completes our distinctive “inside-outside” approach.

We invite you to be a part of our network and take action against P&G at our REVEL Virtual Rally on October 20th at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET. Here we will share some updates on the exciting work with our Indonesian partners in the Leuser Ecosystem. You’ll see behind-the-scenes footage from our direct actions against P&G in addition to some of our other corporate targets. To conclude, we’ll act together to escalate the pressure on P&G and remind them that we will not back down until our collective demands are met. We hope you join us!