Raising the bar on palm oil: Wilmar using satellites to track deforestation, Corbion signs up to sustainable network

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12 Dec 2018 --- The use of palm oil continues to come under mounting scrutiny forcing companies to address their role in this industry. This has led Wilmar International Limited to launch a new program to map and monitor all of its suppliers. The palm oil giant plans to use satellites to monitor all of its palm oil suppliers, making it almost impossible for them to get away with forest destruction. The pioneering move comes as Corbion has signed on as a member of the North American Sustainable Palm Oil Network (NASPON), through which major industry players in the region are collaborating to create a greener palm oil supply chain.

Both companies are ramping up efforts to create a sustainable supply chain and eliminate some of the controversial practices that have been associated with it such as child labor and negative environmental impacts including deforestation. 

The latest moves by Wilmar and Corbion also come as global consumers are becoming more aware of sustainability issues within the palm oil supply chain, leading to a growing number of “No palm oil” claims on some foods and partial boycotts from UK retailer Iceland, which has scrapped palm oil from its own-label, as well as the continual campaigns run by environmental groups such as Greenpeace. 

Over the last few months, Greenpeace activists have occupied Wilmar’s refinery in Indonesia and twice boarded a tanker ship carrying Wilmar’s palm oil products. However, responding to Wilmar’s latest efforts, Greenpeace says that it’s “pausing its campaign” to give Wilmar space to put this plan into action.

Eye in the sky
Wilmar is joining forces with Indonesia-based Aidenvironment, a consultancy providing services and research on sustainable production and trade, to develop a comprehensive oil palm supplier group mapping database which allows the land development activities of Wilmar’s suppliers to be better monitored.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) policy and this new enhanced plan is part of our sustainability strategy as we strive towards a supply chain free of deforestation and conflict,” says Jeremy Goon, Chief Sustainability Officer of Wilmar.

“However, we must be mindful that our pursuit of sustainability goals does not inadvertently create a negative impact on the smallholders. As importantly, we must ensure that by raising the bar even higher, we do not contribute to a growing market of unsustainable palm oil, also known as the ‘leakage market.’ Hence, we continue to place much importance on engagement so that we can continue to guide and assist our smallholders and suppliers towards compliance with our NDPE policy.”

Eric Wakker, Co-Founder of Aidenvironment Asia, adds how companies in the palm oil supply chain will now gain better visibility into the plantation companies they source from in terms of their operational locations and especially their compliance with the NDPE policy. 

“It will also allow companies to act faster against suppliers found to be involved in deforestation and peatland development,” he says. 

Wilmar was the first palm oil company to launch its NDPE policy in 2013 which applies to Wilmar-owned plantations as well as its third-party suppliers at group-level. This had helped pave the way for other companies to adopt similar policies.

Corbion on board with North American Sustainable Palm Oil Network (NASPON)
Corbion says it is already committed to supplying customers with certified sustainable palm-based products, not as an option, but as a standard offering. Now it’s going one step further by signing on as a member of NASPON which was launched in December 2017 by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to educate, build momentum and assist North American companies in making and delivering on commitments to source sustainable palm oil.

This year, the 17 founding members of NASPON – which include Albertsons Companies, Dunkin' Brands, Grupo Bimbo, Kellogg Company, Kraft Heinz, PepsiCo and Target – have been joined by 15 additional members, among them Aldi, Campbell Soup Company and Colgate-Palmolive Company, along with Corbion.

“We can all benefit by working together toward our shared goals in terms of respect for human and labor rights, local communities and biodiversity, each contributing from our areas of strength,” says Diana Visser, Senior Director of Sustainability at Corbion. “The sustainability of companies throughout the value chain are interwoven to a great extent. For our part, Corbion brings the ability to provide certified-sustainable emulsifiers, helping companies who depend on these ingredients to meet their own sourcing targets.”

Click to EnlargeAccording to Corbion, the company has made significant progress in converting its portfolio of palm-derived products to Mass Balance (MB) certification. This refers to sustainable palm oil from certified sources that is mixed with ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain.

 Four US-based Corbion plants use palm oil, however, by next January all palm-containing products produced at two of those four plants will be RSPO MB-certified, with the exception of any products containing secondary oleochemicals such as polysorbate or ethoxylated monoglycerides (which are not yet available as MB-certified). 

Corbion says that by the first quarter of 2020, this will extend to all four North American production sites.

“It's important to us and to our customers to ensure environmental and ethical integrity in all our supply chains,” adds Visser. “But it takes the commitment and collaboration of many players to make that possible. We expect the NASPON will accelerate our collective progress on that journey.”

By Gaynor Selby

To contact our editorial team please email us at editorial@cnsmedia.com

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