Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), one of the world’s largest palm oil producers, has promised to stop clearing carbon-rich forests and peatlands for new plantations. The move should limit the Indonesian firms’ greenhouse gas emissions.
GAR’s new approach to forest conservation should start to have an impact by the end of the year and will be implemented with help from The Forest Trust (TFT), a Geneva-based NGO. The policy was prompted by work TFT is already doing with Nestlé to introduce sourcing standards for its palm oil suppliers (ENDS Report 424, p 6).
Unilever suspended trade with GAR subsidiary PT Sinar Mas Agro Resources and Technology (SMART) last year following concerns raised by Greenpeace about its environmental and social practices. HSBC also removed GAR from its investment funds (ENDS Report 427, p 31).
Nestle’s new sourcing policy was announced after Greenpeace targeted it with an advert featuring a Kit Kat unwrapped to reveal an orangutan finger.
The guidelines force suppliers to protect forests with a high conservation value or high levels of stored carbon, and peatlands. Suppliers must also ensure their plantations abide by local laws and regulations, and seek consent from indigenous and local communities.
The guidelines are close to the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are intended to be complementary, says TFT.
The RSPO tried to introduce additional rules on high-carbon forests and peatlands in 2009 but was thwarted by Indonesian and Malaysian producers (ENDS Report 418, pp 22-23). The standards were introduced in a voluntary form instead.
Greenpeace is “cautiously” supportive of GAR’s commitment. “This policy throws down the gauntlet to the rest of the palm oil industry to follow suit,” says its palm oil campaigner Ian Duff. “If similar plans were adopted by all other palm oil companies, it could protect significant areas of forest across Indonesia.”
TFT says it will be working with the NGO to ensure GAR implements its policy.
“We all know that this agreement counts for nothing if it’s not now implemented,” said TFT’s executive director Scott Poynton.
“The process has begun already with TFT experts visiting GAR plantations, and we have funding from the company and a clear action plan for making sure this agreement sticks.”
It is taking time to meet the commitment because not all palm oil derivatives are available in RSPO-certified form.