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RSPO plantations publicly mapped for the first time

RSPO-certified plantations near Bohorok outside of Medan, North Sumatra. Courtesy of Global Forest Watch

RSPO-certified plantations near Bohorok outside of Medan, North Sumatra. Courtesy of Global Forest Watch

A global map of the world’s Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified oil palm plantations is available for the first time.

On Wednesday, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the RSPO unveiled a new layer of RSPO concession data for Global Forest Watch, a mapping platform that incorporates and presents a wide range of forest-related information. The maps cover an area that accounted for 12 percent of global palm oil production in 2012.

“The concession maps show exactly where RSPO certified palm oil is produced and together with other data in the Global Forest Watch (GFW) platform will empower palm oil buyers and suppliers to make better decisions that support sustainable palm oil production while protecting forests,” said WRI in a statement. “The maps will be accessible through GFW-Commodities, an online platform that empowers companies to assess the impact of key commodities on forests using the latest and most powerful data.”

The maps cover more than 1.6 million hectares of concessions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea and Brazil. According to WRI, the areas account for some 6 million tons of palm oil production annually.

WRI’s President & CEO Andrew Steer says the maps provide greater transparency around where palm oil is produced, enabling policymakers and buyers to see whether palm oil from specific producers is linked to deforestation or forest fires.

“The RSPO and its member companies are now leading the palm oil industry towards greater transparency,” Steer said in a statement. “The fire and haze crises in Southeast Asia over the past year have generated far greater public demand for data about where palm oil companies are operating and who is responsible for managing the land. We are very pleased to be working with RSPO to bring unprecedented levels of transparency to this space.”

Darrel Webber, Secretary General of the RSPO, added that the new layer is a step forward for the RSPO, which aims to improve the environmental performance of the palm oil industry.

“Combining RSPO data with the power of Global Forest Watch marks a new era of transparency for the palm oil sector,” said Darrel Webber, Secretary General of the RSPO. “By releasing maps showing all certified palm oil plantations, RSPO member companies are inviting business partners, governments, and the public to ensure their operations protect forests and communities where palm oil is produced.”

GFW-Commodities aims to provide corporate users with information that enables them to make decisions on where they can expand operations or source commodities like palm oil and timber without destroying forests. WRI says it is currently seeking early adopters “among companies who buy and sell major commodities that impact forests.”

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