Digging Into Indonesia’s Palm Sector Investigative Series

Oil palm fruit in Indonesia being prepared for oil extraction (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

As the largest producer of palm oil globally, Indonesia faces extraordinary deforestation risks, primarily from land clearing for agricultural development. Between 2005 and 2018, the island country lost 22.1 million hectares of primary forest, negatively impacting the country’s indigenous population, biodiversity, and emissions.

To better understand the context behind Indonesia’s palm oil sector, Lucida has launched its first investigative series in partnership with local Indonesian partners. The series will reveal the stakeholders and forces at play in deforestation associated with some of the most influential palm oil producers and financiers. Additionally, the series will illustrate how Lucida will leverage the Stories section of the website to bring our data to life.

Next month, Lucida will release its second case study in this special series. These stories will provide a snapshot of Lucida’s goal to uncover the whole ecosystem behind company and financier involvement in land use and commodity production.


Our platform aims to go above and beyond other online tools and sources of information by giving users a holistic sense of a company’s on-the-ground behaviors, their interactions with local people, and other important context. By providing easy access to data that’s hard to consolidate, Lucida aims to support investigative journalists, litigators prosecuting forest and corporate crimes, indigenous groups defending land claims, or NGOs campaigning for environmental justice.


The first installment of this series, “Unraveling complex ownership structures: CBI Group,” released last month, focused on Citrah Borneo Indah (CBI), and detailed deforestation of indigenous land by the group’s former subsidiary, Sawit Mandiri Lestari (SML). The story highlighted how CBI group’s complicated ownership structure helped to hide SML’s connections to the larger group’s founder, Abdul Rasyid, and its relations to prominent international financiers, like Blackrock, State Street, Nuveen, and more.

In the next installment, Lucida will uncover the inner workings of Austindo Nusantara Jaya (ANJ), a major Indonesian palm oil group, and its subsidiaries. The company currently holds a total of more than 150,000 hectares in its landbank in North Sumatra, Belitung Island, and West Kalimantan, and is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The story will reveal the group’s history of deforestation, land tenure conflicts with indigenous communities, and its connections to prominent individuals, like the Tahija family.

This series on Indonesia’s most important palm oil groups, which will continue through 2021, is a proof of concept for Lucida’s ambitions to become a one-stop shop for forest advocates seeking more comprehensive data. It highlights the value Lucida brings to the discourse over deforestation and other forms of unsustainable land use through its ability to reveal connections and context at a hyper-local level.

With Lucida, campaigners, NGOs, journalists, and law enforcement will be able to understand every aspect behind a company’s involvement on the ground in countries experiencing significant forest loss, through on-the-ground partnerships, as well as at a bird’s eye level, utilizing financial datasets and key deforestation information.

To learn more, visit our Stories feature here.

Josh McBee
Josh McBee is a Senior Policy and Research Associate at Climate Advisers, where he assists the Policy and Research team on international climate policy, diplomacy projects, domestic U.S. energy/environmental policy, and financial flows of deforestation.
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