- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010

Last week, World Growth Chairman Alan Oxley expressed his disappointment in several companies for having caved to pressure from a “protest group” by cutting their business ties with one of the world’s most legally and morally questionable resource-extraction cartels, the Sinar Mas Group (“A taste of ‘greenmail,’” Opinion, Thursday). Regrettably, Mr. Oxley has many of his facts wrong.

These companies, including Tiffany & Co., Gucci Group, Lush Cosmetics, Seventh Generation Inc. and Whole Foods Market, have researched their supply chains and decided they will not purchase products from the clear-cutting of Indonesia’s rain forests. Tiffany and Gucci Group, along with almost a dozen other leading fashion companies, have switched to recycled paper or paper that is certified to be free of fiber from endangered rain forests. Seventh Generation, Whole Foods Market and more than 45 other American consumer-goods companies are searching for environmentally and socially responsible palm oil. These companies recognize that the adverse impacts of paper and palm-oil production for forests and forest peoples are very real.

As the demand for cheap commodities has grown, the industrial production of palm oil worldwide has grown rapidly, and Indonesian rain forests have been chopped down to produce throwaway copy paper and paper bags. This rapid expansion of production has been associated with the loss of large areas of forest in Sumatra and Borneo, the destruction of indigenous communities and the pollution of waterways.

Worse, the destruction of rain forests and peat lands for these forest commodities has contributed to Indonesia’s status as the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

As demand for forest commodities such as paper and palm oil increases in the global economy, a few leading companies comfortable with leadership and visionary thinking are creating development opportunities that hold sustainability at their core. It is now accepted business theory that the smartest, best-managed and most successful companies model their policies on the marketplace realities of the future. Mr. Oxley’s criticism of these companies is misplaced. Instead, he should be celebrating their achievements and urging other companies to follow in their footsteps.


Rainforest agribusiness campaign director

Rainforest Action Network

San Francisco

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