Palm Oil Giant Wilmar Steps Up Efforts To Stop Deforestation

Wilmar has committed to Map its suppliers’ entire landbank by the end of 2019 and has vowed to stop deforestation associated with palm oil.

Deforestation caused by palm oil farming has been a hot issue for some time now. Caused by the clearing of tropical forests to replace them with monoculture palm oil tree plantations, the issue has been the lack of any replacements for the highly popular palm oil.  Making higher sustainability and productivity the only option for both producers and conscious consumers.  Palm Oil giant Wilmar on Monday unveiled its plan to use satellite monitoring to prevent any further destruction of rainforests. Wilmar International, which supplies 40% of the world’s Palm Oil, is backing a project by sustainability consultancy Aidenvironment Asia, to draw up a comprehensive mapping database of suppliers in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia.

Greenpeace which has been campaigning under the banner #DropDirtyPalmOilNow, will give space to the company to put its plan to action and is hopeful that other food and beverage giants will also step up and act.

“Wilmar supplies palm oil to most of the world’s major food and cosmetics brands. So today’s announcement is a potential breakthrough. If Wilmar keeps its word, by the end of 2019 it will be using satellites to monitor all of its palm oil suppliers, making it almost impossible for them to get away with forest destruction. Greenpeace will be watching closely to make sure Wilmar delivers,” said Kiki Taufik, Global Head of Indonesian Forests Campaign, Greenpeace Southeast Asia

The announcement follows the joint statement that Wilmar Chairman and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong and Eric Wakker, Aidenvironment’s co-founder, signed to reaffirm its commitment to “break the link between oil palm cultivation and deforestation, peatland development and social conflicts”

Wilmar’s plans to immediately suspend suppliers found involved in deforestation or new development on peatland from Jan 2019, under plans to continue implementing its ‘no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation’ (NDPE) policy.

Wilmar will begin enforcing its new grievance approach to suspend, then engage its suppliers using a database jointly developed with Aidenvironment to spot deforestation or development on peat using high-resolution satellite monitoring using baseline maps for 2016 onwards, beginning with Indonesia and Malaysia, by 2019.

“We will make progress in moving the industry through the implementation of these stricter controls. However, our efforts may continue to be undermined by a growing ‘leakage market’ whereby errant suppliers and traders continue to resist the need to change as they face limited pressure after they have been placed outside our sphere of influence,” said Wilmar and Aidenvironment in their joint statement.

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“Thus, we call upon NGOs together with other downstream industry players to accelerate pressure on these non-compliant suppliers to commit to and implement NDPE policies. It is only through such collaborative, multi-stakeholder actions that we can ensure that the entire palm oil industry moves towards long-term sustainability commitments and goals that will result in the assurance of deforestation-free supply chains.”

Palm oil has emerged as a major environmental concern but despite well-established connection with corruption and persecution of indigenous people and most recently in destroying the habitat of docile apes orangutans, it still a key ingredient in many day-to-day products like toothpaste and chocolate confectionaries.

Palm Oil Kernels
Palm Oil Kernels

Palm oil is a variety of vegetable oil extracted from the seasoned fruits of Oil Palm trees. The fruit was native to West Africa, the crop– due to its heavy demand by agro-conglomerates like Mondelez, Nestle and Ferrero Rocher, is grown in vast forest areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. Around 66 million tonnes of Palm oil is produced every year and is found in Biofuels as well as almost half of the packaged foods in European supermarkets like in the UK. You can find them in almost everything, like candles, lipsticks, chocolates, loaves of bread and even shampoos.

The enormous global demand has made the once cheap Palm oil as a major component of the economies of South East Asia. Since they grow well in Low Lying Tropical regions, the same region which houses the world’s most lush evergreen forests as well as exotic animals like tigers, orangutans, and Rhinoceros. These rich ecosystems were replaced by the monoculture of Palm, creating green deserts where native animals and birds couldn’t thrive.

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