The world’s largest trader in palm oil has unveiled plans to use satellite monitoring to prevent further destruction of rainforests.
It has pledged to immediately suspend groups involved in deforestation or development on peatland, while also working with them to improve their operations.
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The announcement by the company, which supplies around 40 per cent of the world’s palm oil, was hailed as a “potential breakthrough” by environmental campaign group Greenpeace.
Kiki Taufik, global head of Indonesian forests campaign for Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said: “If Wilmar keeps its word, by the end of 2019 it will be using satellites to monitor all of its palm oil suppliers, making it almost impossible for them to get away with forest destruction.”
He added: “As the world wakes up to the climate and extinction crisis, inaction is not an option. Wilmar has taken an important step and must now put its plan into action immediately.
“Stopping deforestation requires industry-wide action. Other traders and brands must now follow with credible plans to map and monitor all of their suppliers.
“Equally important is action to end exploitation and human rights abuses in the palm oil sector.”
Palm oil is used in an enormous variety of products, including shampoo, candles, lipstick, bread and chocolate, and is also a critical component in fuels.
Destruction of rainforests and peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations releases large amounts of carbon emissions which fuel climate change and threaten wildlife such as orangutans.
The issue gained a higher profile amid controversy over Iceland’s Christmas advertisement, which features an orangutan mourning the loss of a forest home that has been destroyed.
Wilmar said their “new, enhanced plan” was part of its policy of ”no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” (NDPE) and called on other industry players to step up the pressure on non-compliant suppliers.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to our NDPE policy and this new enhanced plan is part of our sustainability strategy as we strive towards a supply chain free of deforestation and conflict,” said Wilmar’s chief sustainability officer Jeremy Goon.
Eric Wakker, co-founder of Aidenvironment Asia, said: “Companies in the palm oil supply chain will now gain better visibility into the plantation companies they source from in terms of their operational locations and especially their compliance with the NDPE policy.
“It will also allow companies to act faster against suppliers found to be involved in deforestation and peatland development.”
Additional reporting by Press Association