Certifying the uncertifiable: Soil Association WoodMark, Perhutani, and human rights abuses

The Soil Association’s FSC-accredited certifier WoodMark has just announced a ‘stakeholder consultation’ for the potential certification of two management units of the huge Indonesian plantation company, Perhutani.

Many people, not least members of the FSC who care about the organisation’s reputation, will probably be somewhat surprised about this: the very same Perhutani management units were amongst those that had their FSC certificates ‘suspended’ (and evidently completely withdrawn) by SmartWood in August 2001. SmartWood noted at the time that there had been “non-compliances with the FSC’s standards”, though no further details were ever made publicly available.

More problematic still is Perhutani’s continuing reported association with gross abuses of human rights, including the killing of local people. The company, and its predecessor Perum Perhutani, which was a state run enterprise responsible for the establishment of large areas of mainly teak plantations on the island of Java, has gained notoreity for the brutal treatment of people living in areas which have now been smothered by monoculture tree crops. Researchers in Indonesia have estimated that, in the last 8 years, Perhutani have been associated with violent incidents involving 71 people, 24 of whom have died. Two people have been killed already this year.

This casts an interesting light on the slogan currently being used by the Soil Association in relation to its 60th Anniversary, which claims “The Soil Association, 1946- 2006: Sixty years pioneering organic farming, championing human health”. The families and friends of those in Java who have lost their lives at Perhutani’s hands may take issue with the last part of this claim.

Further information on Perhutani’s plantation units, previous certification attempts, violence, as well as land tenure conflicts in the two areas currently under assessment is available here:

PerhutaniandWoodmarkSAAssessment.pdf

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