Wilmar International Ltd., the world’s largest palm oil trader, will sever ties with any Indonesian suppliers found to be using fire illegal to clear land or manage their plantations, reports Bloomberg.
Wilmar made the announcement after NGOs and government officials linked the company to peat fires that driving “haze” across Singapore and Malaysia. The haze is associated with record-setting air pollution and has sparked widespread health warnings.
Wilmar sources more than 90 percent of the palm oil it processes from third party suppliers. It is these operators that have been linked to fire hotspots detected by NASA satellites, according to Wilmar.
“Should they be found to be involved in burning to clear land for cultivation, we will stop doing business with them,” the company said in a statement sent to Bloomberg. Wilmar’s suppliers have been a source of criticism for the company due to accusations of deforestation, conflict with communities, labour issues, and clearing of carbon-dense peat forests.
Other palm oil giants, including Cargill and Sime Darby, have run into similar problems in the past.
Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, which buys 3 percent of global palm oil production, told Bloomberg the that haze shows palm oil companies “can’t be simple bystanders in an ecosystem that gives them life in the first place.”
“Tropical forests provide vital eco system services for all humanity,” Polman said in a address to the Tropical Forest Alliance — a network of companies, governments, and civil society groups working toward a zero deforestation target for commodity production by 2020 — last week in Jakarta. “The challenge of protecting them is a shared one. It is the responsibility of all of us. All of us have contributions to make. All of us must work together to meet our commitments.”