More Companies Looking to Go Green While Remaining Profitable
Samarinda/Jakarta. Indonesian plantation and logging companies are increasingly balancing their profits and growth with environmental protection, according to industry players, activists and officials.
Companies in the two sectors have been blamed as key factors behind massive deforestation in Indonesia. Oil palm estates sprawl across around 8.5 million hectares in Indonesia, and that number is expected to rise by about 200,000 hectares a year over the next decade.
The industries have directly benefitted nearly a million people and contribute billions of dollars in revenue to the state. However, these growing sectors have brought people and wildlife into conflict more frequently. This also includes endangered and iconic species such as orangutans and Sumatran tigers.
On Tuesday, a tiger killed a rubber planter on the outskirts of the Batang Gadis National Park in North Mandailing district, North Sumatra.
Earlier this month, a plantation worker in Muaro Sebo village, Jambi, was also attacked by a tiger.
In Kalimantan and Sumatra, animal encroachment on human settlements and plantations has led to the slaughter and capture of countless orangutans.
Although there are no indications that such conflicts will decrease in frequency, companies are beginning to show their concern for the protection of wildlife and the environment, officials say.
On Wednesday, two logging companies operating in East Kalimantan, Sumalindo Hutani Jaya and Surya Hutani Jaya, announced that they were cooperating with the local authorities to form an orangutan rescue task force.
“The companies are playing a very important role in the conservation of orangutans,” said Tandya Tjahjana, the head of the provincial natural resources conservation agency, or BKSDA.
“We hope that these companies are just the beginning and that eventually all mining and agricultural companies will form an orangutan task force.”
Tandya said there were about 4,000 orangutans left in East Kalimantan, but only 25 percent lived in protected areas. That leaves the majority of wild orangutans in the province vulnerable to human encounters particularly if they stray into plantation areas.
Yaya Rayadin, from Samarinda’s Mulawarman University, said that a similar task force had been formed by palm oil producers Telen and Sawit Prima Nusantara.
“The task force has saved 20 orangutans who have been relocated to conservation sites,” he said.
Although the companies have been praised for their effectiveness in protecting wildlife, Yaya said he was worried about the sustainability of the campaign. He noted the team was only working on a two-year permit issued by the BKSDA.
“The government must do something about this,” he said.
However, small companies are not the only ones launching such environmental protection initiatives.
Golden Agri-Resources, the world’s second-largest palm oil plantation company, has launched a forest conservation pilot project to protect high carbon stock forests in Indonesia.
“Greenpeace commends GAR for putting its forest conservation policy commitment into action,” Bustar Maitar, the head of Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Indonesia forest campaign, said on Wednesday. “Its initiative is crucial for finally breaking the link between palm oil and deforestation.”
Bustar said Indonesia’s rainforest was in dire need of protection, especially with the approaching expiration in May of a two-year moratorium on issuing new forest-clearing permits.
“The government should see today’s announcement as a strong signal that the government, industry and civil society together can turn the tide and protect Indonesia’s forests for the sake of the people and the biodiversity that depend on them and for the global climate,” he said.
He said GAR’s conservation policy, which would begin with Kartika Prima Cipta in West Kalimantan, would also be implemented in the company’s investment in Liberia and would set a strong example for future oil palm development in Africa if executed properly.
T he announcement came just days after Artha Graha Group’s philanthropic arm, Artha Graha Peduli, announced that it would kick-start its campaign to conserve a mangrove swamp in Tanjung Benoa, Bali, in May.
Graham Usher, a landscape protection specialist from the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, said companies could do more by building environmentally conscious business models.
“There are eco-friendly development patterns like paying for environmental services like carbon trading, using water for power generation. These type of developments are sustainable in nature,” he said.
Usher said this allowed consumers to enjoy the products made by the companies while businesses could also make a profit without having to worry about the impact to the environment.
“The government can also receive income by selling these environmental services,” he said.
“We can’t reject these businesses altogether, but we have to see what they are planning to do. Is it well thought through, is it environmentally friendly? Secondly, there must be constant monitoring. Without good supervision, these problems will always reappear.”