Deforestation in West Papua: The role of PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya, The Nature Conservancy, REDD, RSPO, and Wilmar

[REDD Monitor’s latest summary of recent developments since Greenomics Indonesia ‘s analysis of satellite photographs revealed that ANJ Agro were clearing forest for two oil palm plantations in South Sorong regency.]

PT Austindo Nusantara Jaya Tbk (ANJ) is an Indonesian palm oil company, that is clearing forest in West Papua to make way for an oil palm plantation. George Tahija is a commissioner of PT ANJ and a member of both The Nature Conservancy (TNC) Indonesia Chapter Advisory Board and the TNC Asia Pacific Council.

Two weeks ago, REDD-Monitor wrote about a report produced by Greenomics Indonesia highlighting the ongoing destruction and noting the link with TNC Indonesia.

I asked TNC Indonesia for a response. Here’s the brief exchange on Twitter:

Chris Lang (@reddmonitor) Any response to George Tahija’s role in the deforestation in West Papua?
TNC Indonesia (@ID_nature) @reddmonitor Mr. Tahija has been an effective conservation ambassador & advisor of TNC Indonesia since 2003 & TNC Asia Pacific since 2010.
Chris Lang (@reddmonitor) Is that all you have to say? Please add more by email Thanks! @ID_Nature
TNC Indonesia (ID_nature) Please contact ANJ for further inquiries. We can DM you their contacts if you need it.

Since then, I’ve heard nothing from TNC Indonesia.

Rhett A. Butler at also wrote about Greenomics Indonesia’s report. He had more success with his request for a comment from TNC Indonesia. Here’s how Butler reported TNC Indonesia’s response:

In response to a query from, TNC called Tahija “a valued member” of its Indonesia Program’s Board of Advisors and its Asia Pacific Council.

“In these capacities Mr. Tahija has been an effective conservation ambassador and advisor,” TNC said.

The organization went on to add that it is working with palm oil companies in a district-level initiative “to demonstrate that palm oil development can be done in a responsible manner at scale”.

“The results of the work will include increased capacity of district governments, tools and approaches for improved corporate and community practices, provincial level socio-economic and environmental analysis and policy dialogue to inform sustainable oil palm development, and policy recommendations on jurisdictional program development and implementation,” TNC stated.

So much for TNC Indonesia, which it seems is unlikely to raise a finger to stop PT ANJ from destroying forests in West Papua.

When I wrote about this two weeks ago, I asked why the Minister of Forestry had awarded the oil palm concessions after the moratorium on new forest concessions came into force. That was the wrong question.

As Sam Lawson noted in a comment following the post, the forest clearing is not in breach of the moratorium. All that happened after the moratorium came into force was that the Minister of Forestry issued forest land releases for existing concessions of the two subsidiaries of PT ANJ. The moratorium does not cover existing concessions. Even concessions that have “received approval in principle” from the Minister of Forestry are excluded. As REDD-Monitor pointed out at the time, this is a massive loophole in the moratorium.

So much for REDD, then. REDD is irrelevant in stopping this case of deforestation for palm oil in West Papua.

But as Jago Wadley pointed out in a comment on REDD-Monitor, the concessions were almost certainly in breach of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’s 2010 New Plantings Procedure. As Wadley writes this procedure,

“requires any development of the concession to be suspended until HCVF [High Conservation Value Forests] and SEIAs [social and environmental impact assessment] are conducted, and published for comment on the RPSO website”.

Rhett A. Butler at asked PT ANJ about the company’s compliance with the RSPO New Plantings Procedure. Sucipto Maridjan, External Affairs Director at PT ANJ told him that,

“We however admit that as an RSPO member the New Planting requirements were not adhered to and thus an infringement has occurred. In view of this, all activities have been suspended on site and we are now entering into the NPP process.”

RSPO standards have led to stop in the forest destruction for PT ANJ’s plantations in West Papua. At least until the HCVF and SEIA studies are completed.

PT ANJ is a supplier to Wilmar, which committed to a no deforestation policy in December 2013. Here’s the response that got from PT ANJ about this policy:

“ANJ is fully committed to achieving the requirements of the RSPO P&C [Principles and Criteria] through continuous improvement. Although we are aware of the existence of Wilmar’s No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation Policy and the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto Standard we are still reviewing these ancillary requirements and are of the opinion that most of these requirements are already embedded within the RSPO P&C. We reiterate that RSPO certification will be our main focus at this point in time and leaving all options open.”

PT ANJ’s argument that Wilmar’s no deforestation policy is “embedded” in the RSPO principles and criteria makes no sense whatsoever. Not least because RSPO accepts conversion of forests to oil palm plantations. Memo to PT ANJ: Replacing forests with monoculture plantations is deforestation. Regardless of whether PT ANJ complies with RSPO, it fails to comply with Wilmar’s no deforestation policy.

And if RSPO certification is PT ANJ’s main focus, why are the company’s operations in West Papua so clearly in breach of RSPO standards?

As Wadley comments, “Investors must be worried.”

Not only does a firm “committed” to the RSPO as its “main focus” immediately wander into RSPO non-compliance, but the very rational to aspire to RSPO certification seems likely to exclude it from doing business with its main trading partner.

To summarise:

  • TNC Indonesia is unlikely to attempt to stop PT ANJ from clearing forests in West Papua (despite, or perhaps because of, the involvement of its board member, George Tahija).
  • REDD is irrelevant (because the concession was issued before the moratorium).
  • RSPO will delay the deforestation (but probably not for long).
  • Wilmar‘s no deforestation policy could stop the deforestation (but only if Wilmar and PT ANJ take it seriously).

Source: REDD Monitor

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