Billionaire’s Company Accused of Massive Deforestation in Borneo 

Source: Wikimedia/IndoMet in the Heart of Borneo

Deforestation is one of the most harmful things humans can do to the environment, yet it’s still far too common – and often happens in secret to avoid public outrage. Unfortunately, that was the case for Borneo, the third-largest island in the world that recently lost 100 square miles of precious tropical forest. 

Where Is Borneo? 

Located at the geographic center of Maritime Southeast Asia, Borneo covers nearly 290,000 square miles and is split between three countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. More than 70% of the land belongs to Indonesia. 

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Some experts estimate the Borneo rainforest to be more than 140 million years old, making it one of the oldest rainforests in the world. It’s home to some of the world’s most endangered species, including elephants and orangutans. 

Deforestation Has Been A Problem For Decades

Deforestation is defined as the purposeful clearing of forested land, and it has been frowned upon for several decades. To put the problem into perspective, Western Europe was made up of roughly 80% forests. Today, only about 34% of the area is forested. 

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The situation is just as dire in Borneo, where deforestation has been a problem since the 1960s. Things got worse in the 1980s and 1990s, with the rainforest losing 60–240 cubic meters of wood per hectare – for reference, the Amazon rainforest loses about 23 cubic meters per hectare.

Why Is Deforestation Bad For The Environment? 

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a chunk of forest the size of a football field is destroyed every two seconds – and that doesn’t include commercially grown plantations. It only includes natural, noisy forests that were full of life before humans arrived. 

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So, why is this a bad thing? Aside from ruining whole ecosystems that depend on forests for shelter, food, and water, deforestation contributes to roughly 10% of the global warming we see today since trees aren’t alive to recycle carbon dioxide. 

PT Mayawana Persada Clears Large Piece Of Land

That brings us to the most recent news in Borneo – where more than 100 square miles of forest have been cleared in recent years. At first, no one knew who was behind the deforestation project, but an extensive investigation has finally given us the answer we’ve been waiting for. 

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The company is called PT Mayawana Persada, and they’ve cleared more than 33,000 hectares (equivalent to about 127 square miles) over the past three years. The company is known to operate a forestry concession in Indonesia’s West Kalimantan province.

Billionaire Sukanto Tanoto Is Behind The Project

The investigation dug a little deeper and found the man responsible for funding a large majority of the project. His name is Sukanto Tanoto, and he’s a billionaire who owns the Royal Golden Eagle Group – one of Asia’s largest resource conglomerates. 

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Arie Rompas of Greenpeace Indonesia described how the company’s complex corporate structure helped hide who the beneficial owners were – essentially shielding them ‘from the legal and reputational risks of destroying such vast tracts of tropical forest.’

Company Committed To Zero Deforestation In 2015

But they can’t hide behind that structure anymore – and their ill intentions are finally being brought to the surface. As the investigation grew, it found that Tanoto and his company had committed to a ‘zero deforestation’ policy in 2015. 

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They, obviously, never followed through with that commitment and, instead, have continued their deforestation efforts in Borneo. And to make matters worse, they did their best to hide its activities under a trail of paperwork and complexities. 

Greenwashing At Its Finest

This practice is known as ‘greenwashing,’ and it’s often used as a marketing or advertising strategy companies use to trick the public into thinking they’re committed to the environment and eco-friendly practices. 

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Unfortunately, it’s nothing more than an act to disguise their controversial efforts – and that’s exactly what we’ve seen with the Royal Golden Eagle Group over the past few years. They say one thing, but are doing the complete opposite. 

Will These Companies Ever Do The Right Thing? 

As companies continue their deception, forests around the world are being threatened – and the ecosystem that relies on those forests are being threatened, as well. It has many activists and experts wondering – when will these companies do the right thing? 

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The problem is that most companies aren’t interested in doing the right thing if it means sacrificing profits. Since most billionaires will do anything to protect profits, it’s going to take some serious consequences to incentivize them to stop. 

Legislation To Make It Harder To Harm The Environment

One of the most effective ways to reduce deforestation worldwide – or, at the very least, in your local area – is through legislation that penalizes companies for harming the planet. But it only works if the consequences outweigh the benefits (in the eyes of the company). 

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The Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act is a good example of legislation that could help reduce the problem. The act would ‘require companies to trace where products come from and confirm they are produced legally.

Boycotts Of Companies That Pollute Our Planet

Another effective way to reduce deforestation is to boycott the companies responsible for polluting our planet. A boycott is known to hit these companies where it hurts – by attacking their reputation, profits, and market share. 

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When you take profits away, companies start to listen. About a decade ago, four of the world’s biggest forest destroyers – APP, APRIL, Wilmar and Golden Agri Resources – announced new ‘no deforestation’ policies in direct response to boycotts and other methods of pressure from environmentalists. 

MoEF Issues Letter To PT Mayawana Persada

In March, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) sent a letter to PT Mayawana Persada in an effort to prevent further damage to the rainforest – and it’s proving to be instrumental in bringing their harm to an end. 

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The letter demanded two things. First, it directed the company to ‘stop all logging activities in the used area/logged over area (LOA).’ It also demanded the company focus on ‘environmental restoration activities including planting on empty land, bushland, and open land.’

NDC And FOLU Are Continuing Those Efforts

The letter was just one of the many ways the MoEF and Indonesia (as a whole) are working to end deforestation and trigger reforestation. Their efforts are being highlighted by the NDC and FOLU – two initiatives launched in Indonesia recently. 

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The Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) has goals of restoring 2 million hectares of peatland and 12 million hectares of degraded land. Meanwhile, the Forestry and Other Land Uses (FOLU) Net Sink 2030 has goals of reaching negative emissions levels in 2030. 

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Ryan Handson

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