The tyre giant Michelin is a European company that prides itself on sustainability, making much of its commitment to “responsible and sustainable management”.
The flagship of this environmental policy is the Royal Lestari Utama (RLU) sustainable-rubber project in Indonesia. Launched in 2015 as a joint venture between Michelin and its local partner Barito Pacific, the initiative is presented as the ultimate success story: planting rubber trees to reforest areas devastated by illegal logging, creating local employment, protecting flora, fauna, elephants, orangutans and baby tigers.
All this with the involvement of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), while the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have promoted it as a model of a sustainable value chain
Voxeurop’s investigation, conducted over a year and a half with our partners from Tempo magazine in Jakarta, shows the limits of this operation financed by $95 million worth of “green bonds” marketed by BNP Paribas. From the hushed offices of Europe to the Indonesian forest, via the trading rooms of Singapore, our journalists have scrutinised documents, reports and correspondence, and interviewed the main players in the companies concerned, NGOs and local communities. The picture that emerges is far from the rosy one sold to investors.