How Michelin Covered Up Industrial Deforestation by its Indonesian Partner in “Eco-Friendly” Rubber Venture


By Paul Homewood

h/t Ian Magness 


Glenn Hurowitz is CEO of Mighty Earth, a “a global advocacy organization working to defend a living planet”.

Their investigation into Michelin was published two years ago, but now appears to have been picked up by Voxeurop.

Below is the original Mighty Earth report:

WASHINGTON, DC – A new report released today by environmental campaign group Mighty Earth alleges that Michelin, the world’s largest tire company, was complicit in and covered up industrial-scale deforestation of over 2,500 hectares of rainforest in the run-up to the launch of its flagship  ‘eco-friendly’ sustainable natural rubber joint venture project in Sumatra, Indonesia. The project, undertaken in partnership with a company described as ‘within the Barito Pacific Group’, is currently seeking an additional $120 million in investment from green financiers.

Evidence in the new report shows some 2,590 ha of rainforest – over seven times the size of New York’s Central Park, or equivalent to the size of central Paris – was industrially deforested by subsidiaries of Michelin’s Indonesian joint venture partner in a 33-month period to January 2015 to make way for natural rubber plantations in the flagship rubber, wildlife and conservation-focused Royal Lestari Utama (RLU) Project in Jambi, Sumatra. Of this total, Mighty Earth also found 1,298 ha of rainforest was industrially deforested in a Wildlife Conservation Area, and which is now planted with thousands of rubber trees under the RLU Project.

Situated adjacent to the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in central Sumatra, these globally significant, wildlife and nature-rich tropical rainforests are home to two forest-dependent Indigenous communities – the Talang Mamak and Orang Rimba – and provide critical habitat for endangered Sumatran elephants, tigers and reintroduced orangutans.

France-based Michelin Group is the world’s largest tire company, and natural rubber is the key ingredient in the vehicle tires that it manufactures and sells worldwide. The RLU Project has since gone on to attract financing from Asia’s first $95 million corporate sustainability ‘Green bond’, as well as public funds from the Norwegian, UK and US governments, and is imminently slated to receive further financing from a second $120 million green bond.

“This is a major deforestation scandal,” says report author Alex Wijeratna, Campaign Director at Mighty Earth. “Our evidence shows thousands of hectares of wildlife-rich rainforests were industrially deforested in Jambi in the run-up to the agreement of the RLU Project in late 2014. Michelin knew about this terrible forest destruction, they didn’t do enough to stop it, and instead chose to provide green cover to the project in order to attract green bond investors that have since sunk millions of dollars into the scheme.”

Read the full report here.

The scandal highlights how companies like Michelin can con investors and customers through greenwashing. This definition of the term rather says it all:

The moral of the story is clear – don’t believe any business that tells you they are saving the planet; in most cases they are simply out to make money.

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December 18, 2022 6:10 am

One side of the story “….thousands of hectares of
tiger, elephant and orangutan habitat….”
The other side would be “thousands of acres of wasteland”. Mighty Earth’s claim of inadequate due diligence is possibly just a standard opinion on their part.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 18, 2022 6:57 am

I’d rather see rubber made synthetically via petrochemicals as the environmental impact is actually less.

Reply to  Scissor
December 18, 2022 7:05 am

Plastic grocery bags were invented to alleviate pressure on the environment by chopping down trees to make paper grocery bags.

Reply to  HotScot
December 18, 2022 11:03 pm

Yea, so we went from a bag that is quickly biodegradable and not dangerous to any wild life to one that will take a very long time to degrade and is a danger to not only animals but children.

And yet we see cardboard and napkins and various other paper products, including smaller paper bags like the one your carry out comes in at various burger joints, made from recycled paper. Then big bags, like those with the plastic inner liner that are inflated to secure some kinds of freight inside a truck. All from recycled paper!

Bottom line is that transition too was about MONEY!

BTW I just bought a set of 10 ply Michelin snow tires for my new/old 1995 Ram 3/4 ton. The weren’t cheap but I trust the brand having had Michelins for both the steer and drive tires on my big truck for many years. Michelins and Goodyears is all I have ever had on any tractor I have driven.

Last edited 3 months ago by rah
Reply to  HotScot
December 19, 2022 9:39 am

Paper grocery bags can be made from paper and cardboard waste. No impact on the trees.

Reply to  IAMPCBOB
December 24, 2022 6:30 am

We’re supposed to be cutting down on waste.

Lee Riffee
Reply to  Scissor
December 18, 2022 8:45 am

I didn’t know that tires were still being made of natural rubber today (save for perhaps special applications) – I thought even long ago they were made from synthetic (fossil fuel derived) rubber. But yes, it makes sense that the environmental impact would be less when you don’t have to have thousands of acres to grow something you can already manufacture.

Reply to  Lee Riffee
December 18, 2022 11:10 pm

The US led the way in developing and mass producing synthetic rubber during WW II. They had to since the Japanese overran the sources for natural rubber. And so the US became the primary source of rubber for the allies and Russia.

Think of the tires produced and other applications in wheeled and tracked vehicles! Then there were the various applications in aircraft and ships and lots of other things. Read that there is over nearly 3 tons of rubber in an Iowa Class Battleship.

Reply to  Scissor
December 18, 2022 10:56 pm

If it is managed correctly natural latex farming is environmentally friendly. Rubber trees only produce effectively so many years. They used to plow them up and burn them and then replant.

Now, companies like University Loft buy the lumber, cure it and treat it and bring it here to the states and make institutional furniture out of it. I have seen the facility where they make the furniture and hauled some of it to Dorms and Frat houses at various Universities in Indiana.

Reply to  DMacKenzie
December 18, 2022 7:01 am

“thousands of hectares of . . . habitat” doesn’t mean that the tigers, elephants and orangutans actually live there in the present, only that according to some they might find it suitable. There’s similar suitable habitat in Florida but no one is suggesting that the construction of Disneyworld ruined life for alligators in central Florida.

michael hart
December 18, 2022 6:31 am

It’s another palm-oil-for-diesel-scheme, which also took place in that part of the world.

That was a scheme so environmentally destructive and economically inefficient that even Greenpeace started wondering if they had made a mistake by vigorously promoting it. They didn’t admit it too loudly of course.

Reply to  michael hart
December 18, 2022 6:58 am

Exactly. It’s why greenwashing is alive and well.

Reply to  michael hart
December 18, 2022 7:18 am

Yes, absolute and relative destruction aside, the point of this article is distortion through leverage of status.

Reply to  michael hart
December 18, 2022 9:41 pm

I think Greenpeace denied it was part of their policy to save the world

December 18, 2022 6:54 am

“The moral of the story is clear – don’t believe any business that tells you they are saving the planet; in most cases they are simply out to make money.”

by providing a product even the greenies wouldn’t want to live without.

Reply to  heme212
December 18, 2022 7:12 am

So much hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance exists. Related to your point, is that some industries, in promoting these causes, would logically lead to their own demise.

Indeed, in a world accepting the UN’s sustainable development goals, travel, and leisure, skiing, scuba diving, etc., are likely to be forbidden, at least for common folks.

December 18, 2022 7:04 am

Whilst Michelin seem guilty of wrongdoing here, it wouldn’t happen were they not forced to adopt loony green fantasies of helping the planet like ESG etc.

December 18, 2022 7:14 am

Advocacy, activism, publishing, bureaucrats, politicians, when you can afford them… a collusion between capital, labor, and special and peculiar interests in the modern family of leverage. Take a knee, beg, “donate”.

abolition man
December 18, 2022 7:23 am

The “Green” Phantasm is just as deadly as ANY fossil fueled one; quite often more so!
When the true believers wake from their fitful slumbers will they be able to reverse course and restore the health of the planet they destroyed, or will the shackles fit too snuggly by then?

abolition man
December 18, 2022 7:34 am

It seems clear that the indulgences sold by the Church of Climastrology are being used to salve the consciences of “woke” businesses! You can go out and sin all day long for six days, but on the seventh you’d better sit your butt in the pew and sing from the “Green” hymnal!
Is this akin to Black Rock being a prime mover of the energy shortages plaguing the world?

Reply to  abolition man
December 18, 2022 8:27 am


Now can I take a little something from the offering plate like Black Rock does?

Joe Crawford
Reply to  abolition man
December 18, 2022 10:47 am

That sounds like the old definition of a ‘Sunday Christian’, i.e. someone who sows wild oats six days a week then goes to church on Sunday to pray for a crop failure. :<)

Reply to  Joe Crawford
December 18, 2022 9:43 pm

That’s why deathbed confessionals are so popular

That’s what I plan to do – hedging my bets 😉

December 18, 2022 9:39 pm

In the UK, and in many western countries I assume, we’re constantly bombarded with charity appeals on the TV and elsewhere.

The latest one I have seen is “Save the elephants” by Fauna-Flora International (Attenborough – Vice-President).

The advert tells the story of the poor elephants being driven from their land by people

In reality, the elephants are in danger of being driven from their natural habitat by the green policy of clearing forest to plant monocultural palm oil.

There slogan should be “Be Green, Help us Destroy Nature”

December 21, 2022 5:11 pm

Using this same environmental assessment approach for industrial wind turbines, would it be fair to say that governments subsidizing projects over 20 year contracts is actually illegal, when the damage to the environmental at every stage of production, transporting, construction and even their trespassing noise harming nearby residents is considered?

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