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In 2014, the four largest palm oil trading companies signed an agreement to end deforestation, development of peat lands and exploitation of locals not only with their own operations, but also from all of their suppliers. For environmental NGOs, the Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (as the agreement was named) represented a dramatic advance in their decades-long efforts to protect the Indonesian rainforest from further destruction.

One year later the situation appeared to have reversed. Leading figures in the government of Indonesia were calling upon the companies to withdraw their pledge. And the 2015 fire season was the worst in nearly two decades, as would-be oil palm growers set fire to rainforests and peatlands to clear them for planting. What should the companies do? What influence levers should the NGOs use to try to salvage the agreement? And what path should government officials who were sympathetic to environmental concerns take to try to balance the environment with an interest in development?



The Yale School of Management’s work on this Global Network case study has been made possible by the generous support of

The Brad Huang ’90 Fund for Innovation in Case Studies
The Jane Mendillo YC ’80, ’84 MBA and Ralph Earle ’84 MBA Fund

The National University of Singapore Business School participation benefited from the generous support of

 The Musim Mas Endowment

Project Editors

Jaan EliasDirector of Case Research, Yale School of Management
Kenneth RichardsProfessor, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), University of Indiana, Bloomington
Vero Bourg-MeyerProject Editor, Yale School of Management

Video Producer & Editor

Greg MacDonaldMultimedia Producer, Case Research and Development, Yale School of Management

Video Production

Rian MaelzerIndonesia, Malaysia, Singapore Producer/Camera
Matt LoganSwitzerland Producer/Camera
Mustapha CherietSwitzerland Sound
Derek J. AllenWashington, DC Producer/Camera
Jonathan PackerWashington, DC Sound
Ed MantleUK Producer
Paul Michael AngellUK Camera
Filipe PinheiroUK Sound
Mac RichardsSingapore Grip

Video Interviewers

Kenneth Richards
Jaan Elias
Rian Maelzer
Vero Bourg-Meyer


Marcus ColchesterForest Peoples Programme, Founder
Mahendra SiregarRepublic of Indonesia, Vice-Minister for Finance
Scott PoyntonThe Forest Trust, Founder and Director
Glenn HurowitzClimate Advisors, Managing Director
Jean-Pierre CalimanSMART Research Institute, Director
Adrian SuhartoNestle Oil Corporation, Sustainability Manager
Peter HengGAR, Managing Director, Corporate Communications & Sustainability
Rikke NetterstromRoundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, Executive Board Director
Darrel WebberRoundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, Secretary General
Bustar MaitarGreenpeace Global Forest Network, Head of Forest Campaign
Matt DaggettGreenpeace USA, Director of Strategy
Gail KlintworthUnilever, Chief Sustainability Officer
Sonia LieberherrThe Forest Trust
Kristy ConwayLondon School of Economics, Corporate Relations Events Officer