We refer to your report Oil boom threatens the last orang utans of 23rd June 2009. It is unfortunate that the report contains inaccurate and defamatory allegations notwithstanding the responses that we had provided to your questions.
We would like to emphasise that AAL takes environmental, ethical and social stewardship seriously. AAL takes careful account of the economic, social and environmental impact of all of our plantations. For AAL, Indonesia is not just a place where we do business. It is a place where we raise our children and where our workforce of over 22,000 live. We share the same responsibility to protect our planet and we do hold ourselves accountable for our future generations.
We deny the accusations made regarding the manner in which we conduct our plantation operations. AAL’s activities are in full compliance with extensive laws and regulations in Indonesia, and our sustainable palm oil growing programmes expressly prohibit burning for land clearing purposes.
Indonesian law requires comprehensive environmental studies that take into consideration any stakeholders’ concerns in the surrounding area prior to plantation developments taking place. Such studies must cover the potential impact on endangered species, such as the orangutan. The allegations in the article regarding the effect of AAL’s activities on the orang utan habitat are, therefore, unfounded.
Further, it is important to note the reasons for AAL’s decision to conserve some 7,000 ha (out of a total 13,000 ha) of its concession in Aceh, that you refer to as in Tripa. This decision followed the findings of an independent environmental study commissioned by AAL, which considered this 7,000 ha to be High Conservation Value Forest (‘HCVF’). This HCVF area being preserved covers the deep peat swamps, the ‘tsunami buffer zone’, areas identified as the primary habitat of the orang utan and other endangered species, as well as areas which are identified as being culturally sensitive to the indigenous population. As such, AAL has clearly demonstrated its intention to act responsibly in such matters.
AAL supports sustainable palm oil practices and fully endorses the principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in this area. AAL was also an early adopter of the HCVF concept, with the execution of an MOU with the WWF in 2006.
AAL is proud of its good agricultural practices which apply to all of its farm production and plantation crop processing. In addition to its strict policy on ZERO burning, to prevent forest fires, AAL conducts regular fire drills and invests in ongoing community awareness and education. AAL also applies terracing on hilly land at the planting stage to reduce soil erosion; pest control is managed through non-toxic means; and waste products are recycled.
Palm oil is one of the main drivers of Indonesia's economy accounting for some 10 per cent. of Indonesia’s total exports in 2008. Both in terms of productive capacity and efficiency of land use, palm oil is superior to any other oil crop.
AAL also supports the local communities and contributes to Indonesia’s national prosperity through the provision of employment, the establishment of better infrastructure and housing, and by providing healthcare facilities and education for the communities within our sustainable palm oil plantations.
AAL promotes economic self-sufficiency among small owner-operator palm oil farmers to help them develop their own palm oil activities in a responsible manner. This includes providing technical know-how, direct assistance and micro-financing. AAL’s partnership with local communities in 2008 was worth more than US$260 million, the bulk of which was spent on buying fresh fruit bunches from small and independent farmers. Full details can be found on the Company’s website, www.astra-agro.co.id.
Last year, AAL helped improve education standards by operating four junior high schools and six elementary schools, and supporting another 13 state elementary schools. Close to 6,000 students in the plantation areas have their education provided by AAL.
AAL is 80% owned by the Indonesian PT Astra International Tbk, an affiliate of the Jardine Matheson Group.