Greenpeace halts campaign against palm oil trader that has 'come a long way'

Malaysia-based IOI Group announces further moves to address deforestation and exploitation in its supply chain
Elle Hunt The Guardian 28 Apr 17;

Greenpeace has suspended its campaign against one of the world’s largest palm oil traders in recognition of its “significant commitment” to address deforestation and exploitation in its supply chain.

One year after its sustainability certificate was suspended, IOI Group announced further commitments to improve its environmental practice in a nine-month progress report released on Friday.

Greenpeace simultaneously confirmed it was suspending its active campaign against IOI to give the Malaysia-based conglomerate time for its changes to take effect.

Kiki Taufik, the global head of Greenpeace’s Indonesian forests campaign, said IOI’s “meaningful steps” could make significant inroads towards eliminating deforestation and exploitation in the palm oil industry.

“IOI has come a long way in the past 12 months … There is still a lot of work to be done to clean up the palm oil industry and we expect other traders to respond with action plans of their own.”

IOI Group is one of the largest plantation owners in the industry, with an operation spanning more than 230,000 hectares in Malaysia and Indonesia, and exports products to more than 85 countries.

It has been on track to improve its environmental performance since its certification with the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil was stripped in March 2016, prompting several major multinationals to drop the company as an approved supplier. IOI Group’s certificate was reinstated five months later in August 2016, coinciding with the company’s launch of a sustainability implementation plan.

The RSPO said at the time that IOI Group had made “good progress” towards improving its sustainability credentials but warned that implementation of its action plan would continue to be independently monitored.

IOI Group said on Friday work had begun on many of its policy commitments, including the implementation of a monitoring system to eliminate labour rights violations and programs to protect peat areas. It said it had addressed labour issues identified at its Peninsular Malaysia plantations, and commissioned external consultants to verify its progress.

It was also working to ensure compliance with its sustainability plan from its third-party partners, which Taufik said was crucial to addressing issues within the industry when major traders’ “no deforestation” policies were often not observed by their suppliers.

“The only way to clean up the industry is for other palm oil traders to follow IOI’s lead and start cutting off suppliers that destroy rainforests or abuse workers,” Taufik said.

The first of IOI Group’s plantations will undergo the RSPO’s Next audit – which verifies member companies that have voluntarily exceeded its requirements for certification – later this year, with the rest due to follow between 2018 and 2020.

The conglomerate announced on Friday that it would undergo a separate independent audit of its operations early next year.

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