Hundreds of fires on peat land across the Indonesian island of Sumatra have caused hazardous levels of pollution across the region – and several media outlets have blamed palm oil companies for illegal forest burning to clear land, thought to be responsible for about 20% of Indonesian forest fires.
In a statement released on Monday, secretary general of the RSPO Darrel Webber said that five member companies had been reported to be involved in the forest fires: PT Jatim Jaya Perkasa; Tabung Haji Plantations; Sinar Mas; Kuala Lumpur Kepong; and Sime Darby. He called on these five companies to submit digital maps of their plantations within 48 hours, in order to work out whether the RSPO member companies were involved.
“By virtue of being a RSPO member it is a must that these companies have a policy across all their operations that strictly prohibit open burning and have standard operating procedures to manage fire risks,” Webber said in the statement.
The RSPO said that if there was any evidence of negligent conduct on the part of the member companies, the organization would “not hesitate to take action.”
“However – the RSPO recommends avoiding speculation at this stage allowing investigations to determine whether these RSPO member companies are involved,” Webber said.
Two of the five companies concerned had issued statements of their own on the RSPO’s call for information by the time it reached the media.
Sime Darby president and group chief executive Tan Sri Dato' Mohd Bakke Salleh said: "Sime Darby Berhad fully supports the initiative by RSPO. I would like to reiterate Sime Darby's commitment and full compliance of the zero burning policy, which is strictly embedded in all our oil palm plantation operations."
Kuala Lumpur Kepung head of sustainability Sin Chuan Eng said:"We will be making arrangements to submit the digital maps of our plantations to RSPO and shall give the RSPO fullest cooperation during the process of the proposed investigations."