The UK’s largest drugstore retailer, Boots, reports that it has ended a retail partnership with POSCO Daewoo, following a letter sent by Mighty Earth and the Korea Federation for Environmental Movements to parent company Walgreens Boots Alliance that highlighted POSCO Daewoo’s role in driving deforestation and called on the company to take action. Mighty Earth’s satellite imagery and field investigation found that Posco Daewoo has cleared a vast area of over 27,500 hectares (275 square kilometers) of forest at its PT Bio Inti Agrindo (PT BIA) palm oil plantation in Papua, Indonesia.
“In 2016, two brands which were supplied by POSCO were placed on the market for a trial period in 180 Boots UK stores. Since then, and in line with our commitment to halting deforestation, we have terminated the relationship and withdrawn the products from shelves, including boots.com,” a Boots representative told Mighty Earth in an email response.
In addition, POSCO Daewoo has allegedly instituted a temporary moratorium on new forest clearing. According to a recent Politico Europe article, a spokeswoman for POSCO Daewoo, said the company “will not clear any more trees ‘until a professional consulting firm in a field of environmental management gives proper advice on the area.’”
“POSCO Daewoo has been clearing pristine rainforest at a pace unlike almost anything we’ve seen in the past few years,” said Deborah Lapidus, Campaign Director with Mighty Earth. “We’ll believe they stopped clearing when we see it. There hasn’t even been an official public announcement of the move.”
POSCO Daewoo is facing mounting pressure from its business partners, the marketplace, and investors to end its deforestation.
Mighty Earth has monitored POSCO Daewoo’s operations in Papua, Indonesia since 2016 through satellite mapping, field investigations, and on-the-ground interviews. The area is the third largest rainforest in the world, home to numerous indigenous communities as well as threatened and endangered species including tree kangaroos and birds of paradise.
In the spring of 2017, as POSCO Daewoo’s first palm oil mill opened and began selling palm oil to global markets, Mighty Earth alerted the world’s largest palm oil buyers to POSCO Daewoo’s deforestation, and received over fifty commitments from major traders and consumer brands, including Boots, that they would not buy POSCO Daewoo’s palm oil because it did not comply with their No Deforestation commitments.
In August 2015, the Norwegian Pension Fund, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, excluded POSCO Daewoo from its portfolio following an independent analysis that concluded that “there is an unacceptable risk that Daewoo, and thus also its parent company POSCO, may be responsible for severe environmental damage in connection with the conversion of tropical forest into oil palm plantations in Indonesia.”
“POSCO Daewoo and other companies that continue to destroy the world’s last ancient rainforests are not only facing enormous losses in the marketplace, but they’re putting their entire business operations in jeopardy around the world,” said Lapidus. “As Boots has demonstrated, responsible companies do not want to put their brands at risk by being associated with supporting forest destruction. We applaud Boots’ quick action, and hope it will establish better due diligence to screen future retail partners.”