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Plantation companies agree to process to define zero deforestation commitments

Borneo rainforest canopy.
Deforestation for oil palm in Sumatra

A group of palm oil and timber companies that have pledged to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains have agreed to establish a standard for determining what constitutes “forest” in terms of carbon storage.

Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), Golden Veroleum Liberia, Wilmar, Agropalma and New Britain Palm Oil have agreed to establish a body that standardizes the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach, the methodology being used to implement zero deforestation commitments.

“The group will work together to demonstrate that immediate action can be taken to break the link between deforestation and high-risk commodities, such as palm oil and pulp and paper,” according to a joint statement released by the companies and a set of NGOs that met last month to establish the body. “[The companies] have agreed to stop any further land clearing for plantations until High Carbon Stock assessments have been completed and management plans enacted to protect High Carbon Stock areas.”

The body aims “to ensure that there is a practical, transparent, robust, and scientifically credible approach that is widely accepted to implement commitments to halt deforestation in the tropics while ensuring that the rights, livelihoods and aspirations of local peoples are respected.”

Non-producer companies and NGOs involved in the initiative include Conservation International, Daemeter, Forest Heroes, Forest Peoples’ Programme (FPP), Greenpeace, National Wildlife Federation, Proforest, Rainforest Action Network, Rainforest Alliance, The Forest Trust (TFT), Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), The Nature Conservancy, and World Resources Institute.

While the HCS Approach moves forward, a rival group of palm oil and pulp and paper companies — signees of the “Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto” — is establishing its own process for defining high carbon stock areas. That group includes IOI Corporation Berhad, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Sime Darby, Asian Agri, and Musim Mas Group, as well as HCS Approach participants Cargill and Wilmar International. Some of the NGOs in the HCS Approach group have criticized the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto as being a weaker commitment.

Plantation development for palm oil, timber, and pulp and paper production is one of the biggest drivers of deforestation in Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia and Indonesia.

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