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Report: Lessons from the Incense Forest

The people of Pandumaan-Sipituhuta are on the frontlines of human rights abuses and forest destruction for fashion. For over 13 generations, the indigenous Tano Batak people of Pandumaan-Sipituhuta have gone into the forests surrounding their community to harvest the resin of the kemenyaan, or benzoin, tree. This tree has provided a sustainable livelihood for the community, while protecting their unique forest ecosystem.

Then, in 2009, the Indonesian government ignored the community’s rights to the land and handed over 4,100 ha of community-owned forest to pulp and paper company Toba Pulp Lestari (TPL). TPL began to clear cut the forest to plant mono-crop eucalyptus plantations, to provide the material for rayon, viscose, and other wood-based fabrics. This not only destroyed the community’s livelihood, it also destroyed priceless habitat and damaged a critical watershed.

The people of Pandumaan-Sipituhuta have taken action, and have been actively protesting and advocating for themselves, despite police intimidation, arrest, and violence. Rainforest Action Network has documented their struggle, and provided concrete recommendations for fashion industry leaders, in our new report, Lessons from the Incense Forest.

It’s time for fashion companies to develop and implement strong policies to protect the communities at the frontlines. Sign our petition, on the right, to tell Ralph Lauren that it needs to be leaders on forests and human rights, and make sure that violations like those happening in Pandumaan-Sipituhuta never enter into the supply chain. 

Read or download the full report, Lessons from the Incense Forest.

Sign the Petition to Ralph Lauren! 

Your company may be a leader in the fashion world, but right now it’s a laggard on forests and human rights.  

I was deeply disappointed to learn that Indigenous Tano Batak people in North Sumatra are losing their traditionally-owned forests so companies can grow monocrop eucalyptus plantations, which are then processed into rayon, viscose, and other fabrics. This not only destroys their primary source of income - benzoin resin - but also destroys critical habitat and destroys the local watershed.

I don’t want my clothes to come at the expense of indigenous rights and tropical forests. Please take action to ensure that forest destruction and human rights abuses are never part of your supply chain.




Sign the petition