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Samsung Won’t Consort with Korindo; NGOs Claim Credit

Samsung IT has declared that it has no plans to pursue any business with the Korean-Indonesian conglomerate, Korindo. Samsung IT subsidiary, Samsung SDS, was reported in June to have entered into a partnership with Indonesia’s Korindo Group, but an online petition garnering over 73,000 signatures – including 15,000 Samsung customers – urged Samsung to drop the partnership because of Korindo’s rainforest-destruction practices on its palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

The petition, launched by SumOfUs.org and delivered by Mighty Earth directly to executives from Samsung’s Corporate Social Responsibility team at its main office in Seoul, was part of an extensive two-month campaign, calling on Samsung to drop the joint venture or any business partnership with Korindo.

The campaign was launched in response to widespread news coverage in Korean media outlets that Samsung SDS and Korindo were pursuing a joint venture related to logistics in Indonesia.

Mighty Earth says that Samsung SDS’s CEO sent a letter dated August 31st, saying that the company “does not have any plans to develop a business between the two companies.”

SumOfUs and Mighty Earth are claiming victory for the change of heart, and Fatah Sadaoui, campaign manager with SumOfUs, called Samsung smart in its move to “boost its global reputation by severing ties with Korindo.”

Yet Samsung remains under fire from the groups, which say the company needs to “fix its palm oil problem,” a reference to alleged human rights abuses on its own palm oil plantations.

Companies with palm oil supply chains increasingly face skirmishes from environmental activist groups. Most recently, The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) told PepsiCo that its Palm Oil Action Plan Progress Report was nothing but window dressing. RAN published a report in April that accused PepsiCo of deforestation, climate emissions and human and labor rights abuses in terms of its palm oil sourcing. In a statement, PepsiCo said that RAN “continues to misrepresent our work. The new updated progress report demonstrates the breadth and depth of our sustainable palm oil efforts. Our commitments are time bound, and we are encouraged by the progress we’ve made against them.”

Like PepsiCo, many large companies have launched initiatives to clean up the palm oil supply chain. Eight major corporations including McDonald’s and L’Oreal, for example, joined the newly-expanded supply chain platform of CDP to request information from their key suppliers on how they are managing the risks linked to deforestation. The companies say they are combining their purchasing power to achieve deforestation-free commodity supply chains.

Deforestation is responsible for 10% to 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to CDP. Companies disclosing to CDP revealed that nearly 25% of their revenues depend on the four commodities responsible for most tropical forest loss: cattle, timber, palm oil and soy. Deforestation therefore represents a significant business risk, with 2016 CDP analysis revealing that as much as $906 billion in annual turnover could be at stake.

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