April 16, 2018

Minister: Iceland’s decision obviously unethical

( - Indonesian Environment and Forestry Dr Siti Nurbaya has asserted that the British supermarket chain Iceland's pledge to ditch palm oil from its own brand products starting early next year is clearly based on unethical reasons, despite Iceland's claims to the contrary.

The minister also said that Iceland is unethically taking advantage of the plight of orangutans by rebranding its products which, according to Rainforest Foundation UK,  have previously been classified as "DON'T BUY".

The minister elaborated on this, stressing that Iceland has never invested any of its business profits, which have been generated for years from the use of palm oil, into orangutan protection efforts, and is now trying to portray itself as a hero with its irresponsible palm oil free pledge.

The Environment and Forestry Minister delivered these harsh words during a discussion about orangutan protection efforts, especially in the Bornean orangutan-inhabited Sungai Putri landscape, held over the weekend (Apr 15).

"The decision announced by Iceland is a really unethical and irresponsible move which merely seeks to exploit orangutans for the company's rebranding efforts," Minister Nurbaya lamented.

“This move doesn’t show the company’s concern for orangutans - in fact, just the opposite,” the minister added.

Learning from recent example

Minister Nurbaya asked Iceland to learn from a recent example of how difficult it has been to protect the orangutan's habitat in the palm oil and logging concessions in the Sungai Putri landscape, a peat forest area richly populated by Bornean orangutans, whose operations have nonetheless been stopped

If there had been no order from the minister terminating these operations, based on the revised government regulation signed by President Joko Widodo in early December 2016 banning any new peat development, these Borneo’s orangutan peat forests would have been drained to create palm oil plantations (photos 1 and 2) and timber plantations (photos 3 and 4).

“Iceland needs to gain an ethical understanding into what we are doing now. We are striving to save remaining orangutan habitats, in the face of all types of pressures and obstacles. These habitats are scattered among sections of forestry and palm oil concessions and still extend very widely into conservation areas,” the minister figured out.

The Environment Minister explained that along with a new legal basis (for stopping new peat development), there have also been strong political pressures placed on her efforts to ensure that the orangutan-inhabited peat forests spread among the two aforementioned concessions are not developed and drained. 

The minister questioned the company’s comprehension of the issue concerned. "What does Iceland know about how tough these efforts have been?"

Low-cost rebranding strategy

Minister Nurbaya also emphasized that Iceland has never been known as a company devoted to or invested in efforts to achieve deforestation-free palm oil supply chain reform.

As such, she continued, Iceland’s recent decision actually represents a low-cost rebranding strategy which is attempting to change the image of its destructive business by misusing orangutans.

The minister blasted the UK supermarket chain even further. “I really need to reiterate that Iceland's palm oil free decision is completely irresponsible. What’s more, this supermarket chain's business will remain linked with palm oil until the end of December this year and make a profit from it.”

“Iceland's irresponsible decision in no way contributes to the protection of remaining orangutan habitats,” she pointed out.

She went on to say that if Iceland really cared about orangutans, she was willing to invite the supermarket chain to set aside some of its company profits, which for many years have been linked with palm oil, to help support the protection of remaining orangutan habitats.

“That's a responsible way for Iceland to act, while at the same time strictly engaging in supply chain reform, rather than taking a decision which simply misuses orangutans for its rebranding attempts,” Minister Nurbaya suggested in concluding her briefing with