It’s a complex and expanding environmental issue and we continue to be asked about the palm oil in our soap bases. And rightly so – deforestation and illegal clearing is causing devastation to tropical rainforests and ecosystems. Leaders involved in the palm oil industry, from growers to producers to end-use manufacturers, are aware of the challenges they face, yet many remain static whilst options are available.
A few years ago we chose to be different when it comes to sourcing our raw materials. We were the first soap base supplier worldwide to use 100% RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm and Palm Kernel Oil in our production. This was a step, but not a solution; we continue to work hard to raise the bar on our soap base and ensure that wherever and whenever possible we are making a difference.
We are now going above and beyond the requirements of RSPO, to raise awareness for the deforestation and destruction of Orangutan habitat in order to safeguard the future of this iconic species.
We were proud to welcome Michelle Desilets (Executive Director) of Orangutan Land Trust (OLT) to our facility in the UK to see and understand first-hand the steps we have taken to source and promote the right palm oil in the Personal Care and soap market worldwide, and discuss what more we can do together.
Michelle Desilets has been working in orangutan conservation for over 20 years. Michelle founded the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation UK to support the work of the BOSFoundation in Indonesia, which operates the largest primate rescue project in he world. As Executive Director of BOS UK, Michelle initiated a number of international campaigns to help orangutans, such as campaigns to end the illegal trade of orangutans and to repatriate known smuggled orangutans, as well as the campaign for sustainable palm oil. (She now sits on several working groups in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.) She went on to found OLT in 2009 to focus on developing sustainable solutions for the long-term survival of the orangutan in the wild.
- So what is the Orangutan Land Trust?
Orangutan Land Trust focuses on supporting the preservation, restoration and protection of forests in the areas where orangutans naturally exist or have existed in the past. The main aim is to ensure that there are safe forest areas set aside for orangutans and other species which accompany them within their habitat to form a healthy ecosystem.
Funds raised by the organisation are used to survey forests to ensure that it is suitable to use for rehabilitated orangutans as well as secure and to protect forests to ensure that they remain safe and flourishing habitat for wild orangutans.
Orangutan Land Trust is backed by a Scientific Advisory Board made up of some of the best minds working in orangutan and forest conservation, sustainablitiy and policy. They represent a number of disciplines and specialties, and a range of regions throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. In this way, OLT can consider where the greatest needs and best possible outcomes can be found, backed by sound science. Its Board of Trustees includes leaders in academia, business, wildlife conservation and sustainability. All potential NGO partners in the field are assessed in regards to previous successful outcomes, their expertise, and transparency. Through such partners, OLT have supported biodiversity surveys, acquisition of land for a forest school for orphaned orangutans, community conservation efforts, legal assistance in cases where land has been illegally cleared, leasing and management of islands for sanctuary of orangutans, and releases of orangutans.
- What did Michelle find at Stephenson?
“We knew about the work of the Stephenson Group through word-of-mouth, and were told they were a company truly committed to sustainability. I wanted to know more about what this meant in real terms.” Michelle Desilets, Executive Director, OLT
You can read Michelle’s article following her visit to Stephenson just here:
It is following this we have agreed to support and play a part in the work that the OLT do to protect and preserve orangutans and their habitats. Stephenson soap bases will carry OLT’s “Forests4Orangutans Approved” logo, which signifies that the palm oil used in our products is deforestation-free and orangutan-friendly. Additionally, the use of the logo will help to raise funds and awareness for orangutan and forest conservation.
Michelle says, “Since the greatest threat to orangutans is the conversion of their habitat for palm oil, the most important thing we can do is ensure that the palm oil we use and consume is produced sustainably and not at the expense of forest ecosystems. Stephenson Group products make a real difference in ensuring the survival of the orangutan.”
This endorsement is exclusively promoted alongside our speciality soap bases and we are looking to work with customers and partners to carry this symbol in support of the work OLTcarry out, t
o promote deforestation-free palm oil and to save the orangutan from extinction.
It’s an item found in every home and is used every day. From basic, fragrance-free white bars to triple-milled, gold-flecked luxury bars, soap is something we simply can’t live without. Yet, every time we wash, we are in a position to affect the lives of people and wildlife thousands of miles away.
Orangutan Land Trust recently travelled to Leeds to meet with the team at Stephenson Group. A main part of the work of the Stephenson Group is in the area of Personal Care (http://www.stephensonpersonalcare.com/), and they provide soap bases for many soap manufacturers in the UK and globally. Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of Orangutan Land Trust, says, “We knew about the work of the Stephenson Group through word-of-mouth, and we
re told they were a company truly committed to sustainability. I wanted to know more about what this meant in real terms.” Having worked in the area of sustainable palm oil for many years, OLT were already aware that palm oil was often used to produce soap. The oil is ideal for soap manufacturing, with the palm oil which is extracted from the fresh fruit bunches providing hardness, and the palm kernel oil being used to give a soap bar its lather. In fact, of all the products using palm oil, with the exception of cooking oil itself, soap is probably the one product that has the highest percentage of palm oil in its composition. Approximately 75% of a bar of soap is palm oil! With several million bars of soap sold annually in the UK alone, that’s a lot of palm oil!
Peter Ellis, General Manager at Stephenson Personal Care, explained that the company sources only 100% Segregated Certified Sustainable Palm Oil for the production of their soap bases. Furthermore, all of this palm oil comes from New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL). NBPOL, whose plantations are in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, have long been leaders in responsible palm oil and are founding members of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG). The palm oil from NBPOL is not only certified by the RSPO, but also addresses the additional criteria of the POIG charter, ensuring no deforestation, no clearing peat and no exploitation.
So where can we find the soaps which are using soap base made from deforestation-free palm oil? Now that we know that it exists, and with manufacturers and retailers making promises to consumers to use only sustainable palm oil, which ones have put their money where their mouths are and are sourcing this ingredient? In fact, many companies have done the right thing in this regard. These include Sainsbury, Waitrose, The Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, Co-operative, 7th Generation, L’Occitane, Wilko and Crabtree & Evelyn. Missing from this list are Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots. Why? Is there not enough supply?
Peter Ellis answered, “We can readily supply their needs if they did decide to choose deforestation-free palm oil soap base. Availability of the ingredient is not an issue.”
If all the good companies mentioned can provide consumers with “orangutan-friendly” soap, what excuse do those other companies have for not doing the same? If we are to change the way palm oil is produced and ensure that it is not produced at the expense of forests, we need to insist that the products we buy are not linked with deforestation. And we need major retailers like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots to get on board.
Please contact these companies in the UK and let them know you expect them to use deforestation-free palm oil in the manufacture of their soaps:
Tesco 0800 505555
Asda 0800 952 6060
Morrisons 0845 611 5000
Boots 03450 708090
Please remember, more support is needed for increased monitoring in the dry season, and for more releases to take place. You can help by donating at https://secure.thebiggive.org.uk/projects/view/18744/bring-an-orangutan-home-in-2013
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Orangutan Mother and Child Rescued from Massacre in Oil Palm Plantation and Released into an Ecosystem Restoration Area, Kehje Sewen Forest, East Kalimantan
Two orangutans (mother and child) were rescued on January 22, 2012 and released on January 25, 2012 in Kehje Sewen Forest, in the Regency of East Kutai, East Kalimantan. Kehje Sewen is a forest ecosystem restoration concession (HPH-RE). The right to manage this area has been awarded to PT RHOI.
Jakarta, February 2, 2012. After nearly a week combing several oil palm plantations in the regency of Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan, the Rescue and Release Operation which began on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 finally paid off. On Sunday, January 22, 2012, the Rescue Team, which was a joint-team of staff from PT Restorasi Habitat Orangutan Indonesia (RHOI), Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), and The Office of Conservation and Natural Resources of East Kalimantan (BKSDA EastKal), managed to save two orangutans (mother and child) in the oil palm plantation of PT Bakacak Himba Bahari (BHB).
A day earlier, the Rescue Team, led by Dr. Aldrianto Priadjati as RHOI Deputy Director of Conservation, had been combing the area but only found a few orangutan nests that were estimated to have been built 2-3 days before. On Sunday morning, January 22, 2012, the Rescue Team received anonymous information that there was a group of people chasing two orangutans in the area of BHB since the night before. Thus the Rescue Team returned to search the BHB area.
The Rescue Team arrived just in time. When the team arrived at the informed location, a group of people were visibly ready with machetes and ropes to catch these two orangutans. Seeing the presence of a team that was also accompanied by officials from BKSDA EastKal – Ahmad Ripai and Ridho – they immediately released the machetes and ropes, allowing the team to conduct the rescue.
The mother orangutan, estimated to be 25 years old, looked exhausted, so there was no resistance when the vet, drh. Agus Irwanto of East Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program Samboja Lestari – accompanied by Hendro and Muliyono, two technicians from Central Kalimantan Orangutan Reintroduction Program Nyaru Menteng – approached and sedated her. She just hugged her daughter, aged 6 years, very tightly. This behavior is contrary to the behavior of wild orangutans in general, where it is not possible for humans to simply approach them. This suggests that the mother was exhausted after being chased through the night.
According to our informant, the poachers were not local residents, which was apparent from their accent and manner of communicating. They seemed pleased when the team arrived; and even helped save the orangutans. But when the team thanked them and walked away without giving anything in return, their faces changed. It was clear that they expected something from the rescue.
Having checked their health, both orangutans were implanted with identity chips and the orangutan mother was then fitted with a radio transmitter that will be used for further monitoring. Both orangutans will be monitored regularly for several months to make sure that they’ve adjusted to their new home, in Kehje Sewen Forest.
“As a tribute to Dr. Sri Suci Utami, a leading primatologist in Indonesia who had also supported the team in this operation, the orangutans were named Suci (mother) and Sri (daughter),” said Dr. Priadjati. We further discovered that Suci is also about 3 months pregnant. “This is good news, because it means that in a few months, one more orangutan will be born in Kehje Sewen Forest,” added drh. Irwanto.
The radio transmitter was donated by an animal welfare organization – Vier Pfoten – also known as Four Paws. In addition, Vier Pfoten also funded this activity entirely.
After the chip and radio transmitter had been implanted, Suci and Sri were taken to Kehje Sewen by road. The team stopped regularly to do routine checks along the way, ensuring the wellbeing of the orangutans. To access Kehje Sewen, the team must go through the town of Muara Wahau in East Kutai Regency, then continue on to Pelangsiran, a transit area for agarwood and bird nest collectors, which is right on the border of Kehje Sewen Forest. After that, the team entered the Kehje Sewen Forest and to a designated release location, called Gunung Belah.
With unpredictable weather, the team traveled to the release location in harsh conditions and encountered many obstacles such as tracks that were badly damaged, slippery and muddy, landslides, broken bridges and several rivers that must be crossed with limited tools and mode of transportation. Due to these conditions, on arrival at the site of Gunung Belah, the team decided to bring Suci and Sri to their release point in the forest on a stretcher, because it was impossible to carry them in cages.
In the forest, Suci and Sri woke up from anesthesia and after a recovery period they began climbing up into the trees. They looked carefree and happy, swinging among branches of the trees.
The Rescue and Release Operation was completed successfully. The Rescue Team returned safely to their respective homelands. This activity was initiated from the goodwill of East Kalimantan provincial government, with a meeting between BOSF, RHOI and BKSDA EastKal with oil palm companies in East Kalimantan that belong to the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI). The meeting, held on Saturday, January 14, 2012 eventually resulted in the formation of a Rescue Team seconded to BKSDA by the BOS Foundation, with the aim to find and save wild orangutans from oil palm plantations.
But the Rescue and Release Operation is not without consequences. “Releasing wild orangutans in Kehje Sewen Forest resulted in reduced area which was originally prepared for rehabilitated orangutans. RHOI requires more land for orangutans. RHOI has filed Ecosystem Restoration (RE) permit applications for additional lands in East Kalimantan and Central Kalimantan, but the process seems to run into various obstacles. Government support is needed to accelerate this process, so that rehabilitated orangutans that are now lining up in BOSF rehabilitation centers can be immediately released,” said Prof. Dr. Bungaran Saragih, as BOSF Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
In addition, the private sector, especially companies / oil palm plantations, in fact have a great responsibility in orangutan conservation efforts. The biggest challenge now is to make the private sector aware of this and get serious commitment from them. Most companies in Indonesia tend to oversimplify the process of natural resource management and charge environmental costs to other parties. Yet logically, externalities or negative impacts of a business should be included as part of the company’s own operational costs.
“Over recent years until now, the orangutan population has dropped dramatically and is on the verge of extinction. Saving wild orangutans from potential conflict with humans is only a short-term solution. Commitment and involvement of all parties, especially the private sector whose businesses intersect with their presence, is necessary to enforce the law and conserve the orangutans,” said Tandya Tjahjana, Head of BKSDA EastKal.
“We also still need a lot of financial support from various parties to continue the struggle to preserve the orangutan and its habitat,” added Dr. Signe Preuschoft, a primate expert from Vier Pfoten and concurrently advisor to BOSF.
In this new year 2012, Suci and Sri also get a new hope to return to live freely and safely in their habitat. The Orangutan Rescue and Release Operation, held in cooperation with RHOI, BOSF and BKSDA EastKal, with support from the Governments of East Kalimantan Province and East Kutai Regency, as well as Vier Pfoten, successfully demonstrated that the synergy between development and conservation is feasible and therefore should be mandatory.
Govt says no to converting peatland into plantations
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 08/23/2010 9:45 AM | Headlines
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has turned down a request by the Central Kalimantan provincial administration to develop 127,000 hectares of peatland production forest for oil palm and mining sites.
The request was made by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang and Katingan Regent Duel Rawing.
“Zulkifli rejected the request because peatland forests in Katingan are to be allocated for conservation projects,” Hadi Daryanto, the ministry’s director general of production forest development told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Central Kalimantan has the largest area of peatland of all the provinces. The peatland stores huge amounts of carbon.
Last month, UN climate adviser and philanthropist George Soros visited Katingan to inspect peatlands in the area, but Hadi was quick to point out that Soros’s visit had nothing to do with the government’s rejection.
The governments of Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent (LoI) on a climate deal in May requiring Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, to slow down forest loss. In return, Indonesia would receive US$1 billion from Norway under a climate change scheme.
The government would stop issuing new permits to convert natural forest and peatland for two years starting in 2011 with the pilot project for the moratorium to be announced in October at the latest.
A source told the Post that Central Kalimantan would likely host the pilot project.
Indonesia has 120 million hectares of forest, but the country’s deforestation rate hovers at 1 million hectares per year.
Zulkifli has repeatedly claimed he had not issued any permit to convert peatland for commercial purposes since he took office last year.
The 2007 Spatial Law prohibits the conversion of peatland with a depth of more than 3 meters.
Hadi said the ministry would implement new forestry mechanisms to shift income from selling timbers to ecosystem restoration projects. “Indonesia is the first country to implement the so-called innovative forestry mechanism,” he said.
The conservation projects would be held in former logging areas to restore damaged ecosystems and biodiversity.
Concession holders can reap money from trading in carbon in the forests, environmental services or opening ecotourism sites in the area.
“They could still be allowed to harvest timber, but it would not be their core business,” he said.
The permit for ecosystem restoration projects would be valid for 60 years and could be extended for another 35 years.
The ministry is looking to allocate 500,000 hectares per year for ecosystem restoration activities.
A map issued by the ministry indicates that conservationists could run ecosystem restoration projects in 40 million hectares in the country.
So far this year, the ministry has issued permits to PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi and South Sumatra with 98,000 hectares and another 86,450 hectares to PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan.