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Palm oil giants announce deforestation moratorium — effective immediately

Illegal forest for an oil palm plantation within a protected area in Indonesia.
Illegal forest for an oil palm plantation within a protected area in Indonesia

Five of the world’s largest palm oil producers have announced an immediate moratorium on palm oil sourced via clearance of potential high carbon stock forests.

On Friday, Asian Agri, IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong (KLK) Berhad, Musim Mas Group and Sime Darby Plantation said they will suspend forest clearing until they have completed a year-long study that aims to establish a threshold for defining what constitutes high carbon stock (HCS) forest.

The move comes after intense campaigning by environmentalists pushed dozens of major palm oil buyers to establish zero deforestation sourcing policies for palm oil, which is one of the top drivers of forest conversion in Malaysia and Indonesia. At the time of the announcement, several major palm oil producers and traders — including Golden Agri-Resources, Wilmar, and Cargill — had already established zero deforestation commitments based on a definition of 35 tons of carbon per hectare, effectively barring conversion of old-growth forests, secondary rainforests, and peatlands.

Oil palm plantation in Malaysian Borneo

The moratorium may provide a temporary reprieve from green groups, which have portrayed the five companies — dubbed the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto Group for the name of their sustainability initiative — as laggards in the sector for continuing to chop down forests. NGOs that ran campaigns against the firms — including the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and Rainforest Action Network (RAN) immediately welcomed the announcement, as did Green Century Capital Management, an investment advisory firm that a week earlier called for a deforestation moratorium.

“Just a week after receiving our letter signed by investors representing over $600 billion in assets under management, members of the Palm Oil Manifesto Group announced today that they would be adopting an immediate moratorium on clearance of high carbon stock (HCS) forests as called for in our letter,” said Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate for Green Century Capital Management. “A unified approach towards protecting forests in the palm oil supply chain is absolutely critical as the market shifts rapidly away from deforestation and towards climate solutions.”

Members of the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto Group say they are committed to “sustainable production across the supply chain.”

“This includes no deforestation, creating traceable and transparent supply chains, and protecting peat areas, while ensuring economic and social benefits for the local people and communities where oil palm is grown, and respecting their right to give consent to proposed developments or conservation through the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) process,” according to a statement from Sime Darby.

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