Dialogue on palm oil sector's role in haze

Feng Zengkun The Straits Times AsiaOne 12 May 14;

The annual haze and the palm oil industry's role in it will be a key focus at the upcoming, first-ever Singapore Dialogue on Sustainable World Resources.

The event aims to improve companies' use of the world's resources and raise public awareness and support for firms that adopt long-term, environmentally responsible practices.

The dialogue will include representatives from governments, non-government groups and multinational firms like consumer goods giant Unilever.

The world is connected by trade and finance, said Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) chairman Simon Tay, whose independent think-tank is organising the May 20 event.

"Agriculture producers, traders, banks and consumer goods manufacturers have a role to play... to prevent forest and land fires that cause transboundary haze pollution," he said.

Palm oil firms like Singapore- based Wilmar International and Malaysia's Sime Darby will also take part in a panel on sustainability in business. Both were blamed for last year's haze, but they said they have strict no-burning policies and denied involvement in fires that caused the pollution.

Wilmar also announced a new "no deforestation, no peat, no exploitation" policy last December. The firm pledged to ensure that its plantations and suppliers provide products that are free from links to deforestation or the abuse of human rights and local communities. It will also protect land that has great conservation value.

The dialogue, which will be held at the Grand Hyatt Singapore hotel, will also tackle broader issues such as climate change and corporate social responsibility in general.

Mr Agus Purnomo, the Indonesian president's special staff for climate change, will give a keynote address on the country's aspirations and challenges in sustainable development.

Singapore's Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, will also give a keynote speech on the Republic's vision on sustainability and the haze.

One of the dialogue's panels will focus on the ways development projects are financed.

"Many global traders, resource owners and other supply chain players are based or listed in Singapore," the SIIA said in its description of the panel.

"The manner in which project financing is carried out determines if sustainability principles are adhered to."