Malaysian palm oil giant IOI drops lawsuit against green group

Former Unilever and Nestlé supplier says it now aims to comply with the RSPO’s highest level of accreditation by the end of the year
Karl Mathiesen The Guardian 7 Jun 16;

One of the world’s largest producers of palm oil has dropped a lawsuit against the sustainability body that revoked its accreditation.

IOI Group was suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) scheme in April in the face of allegations it was not doing enough to prevent deforestation in Indonesia.

Major buyers, including Unilever, Mars, Kelloggs and Nestlé, immediately moved to drop IOI as a supplier. The company subsequently sued the RSPO last month, claiming it had been “unfairly affected” by the decision.

The lawsuit raised concerns that palm oil companies would be able to bully the RSPO, which is the major tool for cleaning up the notoriously environmentally damaging industry.

On Monday, IOI announced it would be withdrawing the lawsuit.

“Since the filing of the challenge proceeding, IOI has engaged with many of our stakeholders such as customers, NGOs and RSPO to resolve this matter,” said the group’s CEO, Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor.

Chor said IOI had agreed to an “action plan” that would bring it into line with the RSPO’s highest level of accreditation – the Next certification system – by the end of 2016. The statement did not provide details about the plan.

The RSPO said it would not comment on the announcement until the legal case had officially been dropped in a conciliatory hearing scheduled for June 14. The lawsuit was filed in a court in Zurich, where the Roundtable is headquartered.

Eric Wakker, director of Aidenvironment Asia, the sustainability consultancy which filed an official complaint with the RSPO about land clearing at two IOI plantations in 2015, welcomed the withdrawal of the lawsuit but said much still needed to be done to resolve their original concerns.

“Aidenvironment appreciates the work done by IOI staff over the past two months,” said Wakker in a statement. “However, it is too early to say that the requirements set by the RSPO Complaints Panel have been met.”

Greenpeace has previously urged the RSPO to exclude IOI until it had “repaired the forests and peatlands it has destroyed”.

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