News / 20 October 2009

World Bank halts investment in palm oil

The World Bank has agreed to suspend all new investments in the palm oil industry by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) - an independent body within the World Bank focused on the private sector - with immediate effect. In a letter to Both ENDS' partner Forest Peoples Programme, Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, writes that all existing investments will be re-examined, pending a number of guarantees that must limit damage to humans and the environment.


A recent IFC internal audit showed that with its investment in the Wilmar Group - the world's largest processor and marketer of palm oil - the IFC violated its own social and environmental standards and the guidelines of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), in favour of commercial interests. For years many civil society organizations (including Both ENDS) have been fighting against the investment in destructive palm oil plantations. These plantations often cause widespread violations of local populations' land rights, destruction of forests, emissions of greenhouse gases and the disappearance of rare plant and animal species like the orang-utan.


Indonesian NGOs and the Forest Peoples Program insisted in a letter to the IFC that the IFC put a stop to its investments in palm oil until the sector takes measures to improve its sustainability. The IFC's investment policy often acts as a guideline for large private banks. Therefore, the IFC should take responsibility as a role model and ensure that its investments in palm oil are environmentally and socially acceptable.


Both ENDS is a member of the RSPO and coordinates the RSPO Dispute Settlement Facility Working Group (which handles the mediation of land conflicts). For more information read the IFC's audit report, Robert Zoellick's letter and Forest Peoples Programme's press release.


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