Neste’s suppliers responsible for deforestation of at least 10,000 hectares over the past 18 months

Palm oil suppliers of biofuel producer Neste are responsible for the deforestation of at least 10,000 hectares since the beginning of 2019, according to research by Profundo, commissioned by Milieudefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands).

Suppliers have also been involved in recent forest fires, ongoing land conflicts, bribery and labour rights abuses. The findings are at odds with Neste’s claim that it has been one of the most sustainable companies in the world for years. Milieudefensie demands the EU to ban the use of crop-based biofuels, including biofuels made from PFAD (palm fatty acid distillate), a by-product of palm oil.

Neste’s suppliers have been responsible for the deforestation of at least 10,000 hectares of tropical forest in the period January 2019–June 2020. Moreover, almost 13,000 fire alerts involving these companies were documented on plantations in 2019. First Resources, for example, is responsible for the deforestation of 1,600 hectares of rainforest, 2,000 fire alerts and multiple land conflicts with local communities. In a recent complaint, another Neste supplier, Golden Agri Resources, stands accused of illegal deforestation and bribery. Moreover, nearly 1,000 fire alerts were counted in its concessions last year. The information regarding the origins of its palm oil and its PFAD supply that is analysed in the report was taken from Neste’s website.

Green promise turns out to be hot air

Neste is the world’s largest biofuel producer and operates Europe’s largest biodiesel factory in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In 2019, the company processed 1.3 million tonnes of palm oil products. For comparison: Unilever used 0.87 million tonnes. Neste’s palm oil supply predominantly originates in Malaysia and Indonesia, where oil palm plantation expansion is a major driver of deforestation and land conflicts. As a result, the life cycle emissions of palm oil biodiesel are three times higher than those of fossil diesel. In 2018, the European Union decided to label palm oil as unsustainable. Despite that, Neste is only aiming to phase out its palm oil use by 2025 and has no plans whatsoever to stop using PFAD.

 Anne Wijers, spokesperson of Miliedefensie (Friends of the Earth Netherlands): ‘The Finnish oil company Neste claims to be one of the most sustainable companies in the world. However, the palm oil processed by Neste into so called “biofuel” is derived from notorious forest destroyers, land robbers and exploiters.

 No food in our tank

 Driven by the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, the amount of palm oil that ends up in European fuel tanks has more than tripled over the past decade. This will ultimately result in a total deforestation of an estimated 1 million hectares necessary for the expansion of palm oil plantations by 2020. Crop-based biofuels are harmful for humans, nature and the climate. The implementation of the new Renewable Energy Directive for the period ending in 2030, the RED II, is an opportunity for EU member states to stop all support for the use of crop-based biofuels.

 Anne Wijers: ‘European climate policy must not be implemented at the expense of nature and people elsewhere in the world. Therefore, we need to stop burning food in cars and trucks.’ 

Friends of the Earth Netherlands demands an end to all support for crop-based biofuels and, as a priority, for biofuels derived from palm oil, soy oil and PFAD.