The palm oil industry is definitely feeling the sustainability pinch from worldwide environmental groups, investors and even from large buyers such as multinational food companies.
Green Century Capital Management, a coalition of institutional investors from the US and Europe representing about $270bn in assets sent letters this month to about 40 major palm oil producers, financiers and consumers, asking the companies to adopt palm oil purchasing policies that go beyond the RSPO standards such as purchasing palm oil traceable to suppliers verified as not engaging in deforestation, development on peat, or exploitation of people and communities.
Major palm oil producer Wilmar, and a big raw material supplier to Unilever, recently signed a “no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy as part of its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Unilever that ensures Wilmar’s own plantations and companies from which Wilmar sources its palm oil from will only provide sustainably- and socially responsible-sourced palm oil.
Wilmar said there is a strong and rapidly growing demand for traceable, deforestation-free palm oil. The company will consult with a wide range of stakeholders including governments, local communities, civil society, non-profit organizations and business partners to guide effective implementation of the policy.
Unilever itself recently announced that by the end of 2014, all of the palm oil that the company buys globally will be traceable to known sources. Unilever is one of the world’s major buyers of palm oil for use in products such as margarine, ice cream, soap and shampoo. It purchases around 1.5 million tons/year of palm oil and its derivatives, which represents about 3% of the world’s total production.
In September, Cargill said its palm oil plantation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, PT Harapan Sawit Lestari HSL, has received certification for sustainable palm oil supply for biofuels from the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) standards in the European Union. The certification covers HSL’s entire operations including smallholder plantations managed by Cargill.