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Astra Agro Lestari under scrutiny again as palm oil supplier investigates land-grabbing allegations

Astra Agro Lestari under scrutiny again as palm oil supplier investigates land-grabbing allegations Environmental Sustainability, Frozen, Shelf-stable Food and Beverage Business

Indonesian palm-oil supplier PT Astra Agro Lestari (AAL) has come under fire after a report they published did not mitigate concerns over land grabbing and environmental abuse allegations. These concerns were first raised in 2020 by US-based Friends of the Earth and The Indonesian Forum for Environment (Walhi). The report alleged that AAL abused power in Central and West Sulawesi, including human rights violations, involving three of the company’s subsidiaries.

On this note, a report from the investigation was announced in October 2022, by AAL, following a probe from the two NGOs. The investigation’s findings prompted a number of CPG companies, including Mondelez International and PepsiCo, to either suspend palm oil supplies or instruct suppliers to do so.

However, the conclusion from the investigation has been met with criticism from Friends of the Earth and Walhi, as they condemn the one-sided nature and failure to investigate critical allegations.

The report failed to mention free, prior, informed consent (FPIC) even once, which is a crucial factor for distinguishing between legitimate land acquisition and land grabbing, according to Jeff Conant, the international forests programme manager at Friends of the Earth US.

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According to Uli Arta Siagian, the forest and plantation campaign manager at Walhi, the investigation remains one-sided and lacks the scrutiny of how AAL subsidiaries acquired lands or whether they are operating legally.

In a separate statement, AAL CEO Santosa invited and encouraged parties interested in resolving the issues or assisting the community to be part of the process.

He added that the Indonesian business, owned by Jakarta-based Astra International, plans to continue publishing updates periodically on their ongoing activities.

Despite this, Friends of the Earth and Walhi claimed that the AAL report fails to investigate many other allegations, including the required permits to operate by AAL subsidiaries, criminalization of environmental human rights defenders, and environmental degradation caused to rivers.

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