By Sophia Gnych (email@example.com)
Biodiversity and Palm Oil Project Developer
The Zoological Society of London
The growth of large multinational retailers, manufacturers and commercial agriculture firms has dramatically changed the production and distribution of agricultural commodities internationally. Companies downstream in the agricultural supply chain now have considerable power to influence and drive the standards of upstream producers. The palm oil market is particularly buyer driven and therefore pro-active engagement from the private sector can dramatically increase positive actions on the ground and the progress of sustainable technologies that benefit people, food and nature.
Certification schemes are a benchmark by which retailers and consumers can have credence that the sustainable practices, listed within the principles and criteria (P&C) of those schemes, are being upheld. Yet increasingly more companies are using schemes such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as a springboard for going above and beyond those guidelines. Companies are realising that an integrated and balanced approach to agriculture is essential for business longevity and competitiveness.
Companies have recognized the benefits of exceeding the expectations laid out in certification schemes and are experimenting with the way they do business. Profit will always be a driving force for businesses and investors and it has been proven that sustainability can deliver substantial profits through premiums derived from consumer concern, increased investment, media endorsement and supply chain efficiency.
Carrefour Indonesia will soon launch its own brand of sustainable cooking oil and has made the commitment to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) for all its own brand products by 2015. This commitment is echoed by Unilever and Nestle (UK) who have a strict ‘no deforestation’ policy for all palm oil procurement, something that will potentially be rolled out for other commodities such as milk and cocoa. Whilst upstream, companies such as Musim Mas are trialing biogas methane capture and utilization in some of their mills and New Britain Palm Oil Limited is catering to the growing market for CSPO in Europe by delivering 100% certified, fully segregated and traceable CSPO from its plantations to its UK refinery.
For the first time, business is now in a position to implement integrated and sustainable agricultural methods at a landscape level. In practice, however, many companies have reached a limit employing their in-house expertise. Therefore NGOs are looked to, not only to raise awareness of malpractice and motivate change, but also to demonstrate sustainable alternatives and provide clear, impartial guidance to companies that are endeavoring to improve.
Providing companies with the right tools and expertise to develop a sustainable business model is essential. Therefore, this year the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) Biodiversity and Palm Oil team is developing a comprehensive palm oil resource website, one of the grant deliverables assigned by the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Programme (BACP). The website will provide a broad range of information and guidance to stakeholders at each stage of the supply chain including: company sustainability case studies and information on corporate commitments, independent scientific research literature, information on emerging certification schemes and investor led initiatives, international and national legislation relevant to palm oil and ‘how-to’ guides for topics such as palm oil procurement. ZSL is also working with the private sector to develop a monitoring protocol and software programme that will be available to oil palm growers and assist them in managing High Conservation Value (HCV) areas found in their concessions: a key element of the compliance process for the RSPO P&Cs and to mitigate impacts on biodiversity.
ZSL’s work is a clear example of how long term public-private partnerships can further the realization of agricultural eco-standards. ZSL’s palm oil resource center and HCV monitoring protocol will foster sustainable practices and improve monitoring and transparency. This will enable companies to make informed choices on how to approach current sustainability measures and provide the incentive to drive innovation and technology.