A protest campaign to raise awareness that the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s owners allegedly has close ties with a company that has deforested large areas, previously home to the Sumatran elephant, is being waged by palm oil campaign group, Forest Heroes.
Earlier this month, activists dressed in elephant onesies and took to the streets from London to New York to protest outside Mandarin Oriental Hotel sites, aiming to highlight the group’s involvement with the deforestation occurring in the palm oil industry, which is contributing to driving the Sumatran elephant to extinction.
Under the campaign banner of “She’s Not a Fan”, the campaign group has also launched visual social media images that references the Mandarin Oriental’s own star-studded “He’s a fan/She’s a fan” advertising campaign, in a negative way. The company’s “Fan” campaign features high-profile stars, including Hollywood actress Sigourney Weaver who played environmentalist Dian Fossey in “Gorillas in the Mist”, endorsing Mandarin Oriental. The “She’s Not a Fan” image uses fanned broken bones where the hotel chain would normally display the Mandarin Oriental paper fan logo. With a luxury hotel lounge interior in the foreground, the image shows a forlorn-looking Sumatran elephant and her calf outside the window, with a bulldozer stripping a deforested hillside behind the homeless pair.
According to Forest Heroes, Mandarin Oriental is owned by Jardine Matheson, parent of the Astra Agro Lestari palm oil company. Although Astra Agro Lestari accounts for only three per cent of Jardine’s revenue, the environmental impact is quite significant. Forest Heroes also says that “Astra controls the second largest palm oil producer by area in Indonesia, which is the centre of world production, (and has) fully developed palm oil plantations on an area larger than the size of Singapore”.
According to Mandarin Oriental’s website sustainability page, Mandarin Oriental is committed to contributing to the communities in which we operate and responsibly managing our environmental impacts and social commitments. Corporate responsibility values are deeply ingrained in Mandarin Oriental’s heritage; one of our key guiding principles is “Acting with Responsibility”.
As awareness of the destruction involved in the palm oil industry grows daily, Mandarin Oriental’s sustainability credentials are also endangered.