Wilmar, the world’s biggest palm oil company, has launched a new ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ policy in order to improve its sustainability credentials.
The firm said it recognises that whilst “plantation development has contributed significantly to economic development, deforestation and other unsustainable practices have many negative consequences for people and the environment.”
As a result, it has committed to supplying palm oil that is deforestation-free and does not violate human rights. More than 45% of the world’s palm oil supply is processed or traded by Wilmar.
Kuok Khoon, chairman and CEO of Wilmar, said, “We believe that the palm oil industry can provide a sustainable and affordable source of vegetable oil to meet rising global demand for responsible products. We can produce palm oil in a way that protects forests, clean air and local communities, all while contributing to development and prosperity in the palm oil growing regions.”
He added that the company had seen increased demand and interest about traceable deforestation-free palm oil from customers and other stakeholders.
Last month CDP – whose forests programme acts on behalf of investors to collect information about companies and their exposure to deforestation – revealed that requests for information had doubled in 2013, indicating that investor concerns about deforestation were increasing.
Greenpeace is now urging other companies to follow Wilmar’s lead. Richard George, forest campaigner at the campaign group, said, “We know that Wilmar are not the only source of palm oil and that many high street brands are still using palm oil that come from deforestation.
“It is time the companies like Proctor & Gamble committed to a zero deforestation policy that will save the rainforests of Indonesia.”
The new Wilmar policy will include all operations worldwide, including subsidiaries and any refinery, mill or plantation that the company owns, manages or invests in, regardless of stake.
In its policy statement, Wilmar said it would provide public updates on the implementation of the policies and invite stakeholder input. The company acknowledged, “Failing to strongly and unequivocally enforce these policies will lead to poor implementation”.
The reporting process is vital for sustainable investors and consumers. A recent report revealed that many palm oil companies that promise to act sustainably have failed to do so.
Wilmar also revealed it has signed an agreement with Unilever to accelerate integrating sustainable palm oil into its products. In November, Unilever announced plans for all palm oil in its products to be traceable by the end of 2014. The company has previously said its focus on sustainability has helped growth.