Golden Agri agrees to "forest-friendly" charter

JAKARTA Wed Feb 9, 2011 2:17am EST

JAKARTA Feb 9 (Reuters) - Giant palm oil producer Golden Agri Resources said on Wednesday it would work with Indonesian government and green groups to set new environmental standards after coming under pressure from eco groups orchestrating a boycott of the firm's products.

Golden Agri and its subsidiary PT SMART Tbk were given a mixed score card last year in an independent environmental audit and Greenpeace accused the firm of clearing peatland and forests that sheltered endangered species.

The forest clearing accusations led buyers such as Burger King , Nestle and Unilever to stop buying palm oil from firms like SMART.

The Forest Trust, a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote green business methods, said the total area of land allocated for oil palm production has more than tripled globally since the early 1980s, reaching nearly 14 million hectares in 2007, and that most of the expansion took place in Indonesia.

"Golden Agri has developed a Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) in collaboration with The Forest Trust and is aimed at creating long-term sustainable growth for Golden Agri and the palm oil industry," the company said in an emailed statement.

"The FCP also aims to ensure that GAR has no deforestation footprint," the statement added.

Greenpeace said it would closely monitor the firm to make sure it stuck by the agreement.

"On the paper, the latest commitment by Golden Agri is a big step towards ending their involvement in deforestation," said Bustar Maitar, its forest campaigner.

The World Bank named Indonesia the world's third largest emitter in 2005 and the southeast Asian country is now under intense international pressure to halt the destruction of peat swamps in the fight against climate change. (Reporting by Michael Taylor; Writing by Olivia Rondonuwu)

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