Screenshot of Wilmar’s transparency dashboard
Wilmar, the world’s largest palm oil company, has unveiled a tool it says will help eliminate deforestation from its global supply chain.
The tool is an online dashboard that maps the company’s supply chain, including the names of locations of its refineries and supplier mills. The system greatly increases transparency around Wilmar’s palm oil sourcing, a key component to the zero deforestation policy it signed in December 2013.
Public disclosure of its supply chain is a major departure from business-as-usual practices in the palm oil industry, where ownership of plantations and relationships between companies have often been shrouded by complex corporate structure and a web of affiliated entities. That has made it difficult for environmental groups, government officials, and even companies themselves to determine whether palm oil in a given supply chain is being produced at the expense of rainforests or peatlands.
Therefore traceability has been a key demand from environmentalists in their campaigns to clean up the sector. And traceability is what the system delivers, says Scott Poyton of The Forest Trust, which brokered Wilmar’s zero deforestation policy and built the dashboard.
“Wilmar is the first agro-industrial giant to offer a way to follow palm oil all the way back to the mills where the oil is processed,” said Poynton, in a statement.
Wilmar says the system will also help its third party suppliers comply with the policy.
“Our main focus is to support our suppliers to tackle the challenges they’re facing, so that they can start down a more sustainable path,” said Jeremy Goon, Wilmar’s Chief Sustainability Officer.
The dashboard also provides information on two other pillars of Wilmar’s policy: sourcing from smallholders and engaging with stakeholders, including NGOs like Greenpeace whose fierce criticism over the years drove it to commit to zero deforestation. Accordingly, the platform includes a mechanism for reporting breaches of the policy and tracking how Wilmar addresses those grievance.
This complaint function is a critical component to ensuring Wilmar’s policy goes beyond mere window-dressing. For example, last year Greenomics, an Indonesian environmental group that utilizes a mobile spatial monitoring system to examine deforestation, found evidence that Kencana Agri Group was clearing rainforest in northern Sulawesi. That activity was confirmed by data in Global Forest Watch, a worldwide forest monitoring tool.
Greenomics’s analysis of NASA Landsat data showed Kencana Agri was clearing rainforest in Gorontalo, Sulawsi. Click image to enlarge.
Because Wilmar had a stake in Kencana Agri, the clearing breached the palm oil giant’s commitment, according to Elfian Effendi, Executive Director of Greenomics
“The cleared areas were classified as high carbon stock (HCS) forests according to Wilmar’s Zero Deforestation Policy,” he told mongabay.com. “This clearance was clearly not in line with Wilmar’s zero deforestation policy.”
Greenomics filed a grievance with Wilmar, noting that Kencana Agri was continuing to clear forests without completing high conservation value (HCV) and HCS assessments. That issue is now documented in the system and is in the process of being addressed.