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Towards a forest positive future

What we learnt from our Forest Footprint pilot exercise

Since we made our no-deforestation commitment in 2010, we have worked directly within our supply chains to ensure that we know where the palm oil and other raw materials we buy come from. We now go all the way back to the plantation or the smallholder, verify that deforestation does not occur and take action where it does. We then report on progress made and challenges encountered.

Technology has opened up ways to become more efficient. For instance, we're using Starling satellite based monitoring service. This allows us to see where deforestation occurs around palm oil mills in our supply chain in near real-time, identify the main drivers and pinpoint those potentially involved. We can then verify that the palm oil we buy is not linked to deforestation. It also gives us the information needed to send teams on the ground to investigate highest risk areas. From there, we can work with our partners and suppliers to design, pilot and roll out solutions.

Looking to the future

Looking back at where deforestation has already happened is not enough. Forest cover continues to be lost around the world and deforestation frontiers are dynamic. This is why we are shifting our strategy. We want to evolve from a no-deforestation strategy to a 'forest-positive' one: we will buy from suppliers who are actively conserving and restoring forests while promoting sustainable livelihoods and respecting human rights. To do this we need to be able to assess future risks of deforestation and address them through proactive forest conservation interventions.

Satellite monitoring map result

A focus on Aceh

We began by carrying out a Forest Footprint pilot exercise (pdf, 3Mb) across the province of Aceh, Indonesia. The questions that guided this process were: How can we better understand risks within our supply chain related to forests and peatlands conservation? How can we better understand risks to the rights of Indigenous Peoples and communities? How can understanding all of these risks help us design effective, forward-looking forest-positive strategies?

Identifying customary lands is crucial as communities have an important role to play in safeguarding their forests and peatlands from further degradation or deforestation.

Our Aceh Forest Footprint mapped forest areas, peatlands and community lands located within or in proximity to:

  • Available sourcing boundaries with confirmed links to mills in our supply chain.
  • Available sourcing boundaries without confirmed links to mills in our supply chain but that could enter our supply chain in the future.
  • A 5, 20 and 50km radius around mills in our supply chain for which we did not have sourcing boundaries.


The findings

This exercise helped us better understand our exposure to risks of future deforestation and land rights conflicts in Aceh. 89,667 hectares of forest and peatland banks exist within palm oil concessions in this region and could be at risk of potential future clearances. An additional 1.45 million hectares of forested land suitable for palm oil cultivation is located within 50km of mills in our supply chain. Therefore, engaging our suppliers and the producer groups further upstream on their commitments to protect these areas is essential. Plus, conducting High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), High Conservation Value (HCV) and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) assessments prior to future development must be central to our supply chain engagement strategy. This will help better inform our risk analysis and the design of our intervention strategies.

The work still to do

We also see the limitation of this exercise. Indeed, to effectively assess future forest risks and design effective strategies, we lack more accurate and complete data sets. In some cases data exists but is difficult to obtain, pointing to the need for more transparency. This includes information on:

  • Linkages between plantations and mills.
  • Identification of parent companies for concessions and mills.
  • Mill capacity data in order to identify which mills may require additional plantation areas in the future.
Workers discussing plan

In other cases, data is not collected or consolidated. In particular:

  • Traceability to Plantation (TTP) information, including farm boundaries.
  • Accurate information on peatlands, moratorium areas inside and outside concessions, and plans for restoration or rezoning of lands in 'Other Utilization Area' (APL).
  • Mapping of customary lands, information on usage rights, land rights issues and community-company conflicts.

Addressing these data gaps is important to enable palm oil buyers and producers to inform their forest protection strategy. However, this will require a collective effort.

A 'Forest Positive' strategy for the future

Up to 2020, our focus has been on addressing deforestation in our palm oil supply chain. We are now going beyond this and building a 'Forest Positive' strategy. We're planning to use the lessons learned from this Forest Footprint exercise in the development of this strategy. We will focus particularly on the question of how to engage at a landscape and supply chain level to support producers and other key stakeholders in proactively protecting forests, peatlands and human rights. This will be part of the work we need to do to achieve zero net emissions by 2050.

Forest river

We will also continue to engage the industry and other stakeholders to work together to address specific data gaps and improve supply chain transparency, including traceability to plantation and how to best address customary forests and community rights.

Learn more about our Forest Footprint exercise pilot (pdf, 3Mb)