World's largest palm oil trader turns over a new leaf

Posted by Richardg — 6 December 2013 at 6:12pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Paul Hilton
Wilmar has a history of deforestation, but it says those days are now behind it

If there's ever a time for bad puns, it's when the world's largest palm oil trader promises to protect forests. Wilmar International, responsible for almost half of the world's palm oil, will no longer sell oil from companies that are destroying the rainforest. 

Yesterday evening, as I was preparing to leave the office, we got the news. Wilmar, which sells 45% of the world's palm oil, had announced that by the end of 2015 it will no longer buy or sell palm oil from any company that was destroying the forest. 

Wilmar sells to just about every household brand in the world. Its new policy means that the companies that make Gillette and Durex now have no excuse not to protect forests. 

You can see why I'm excited.

Now for the inevitable note of caution. The key test of Wilmar's new policy will be how it will deal with controversial suppliers. Over the past few months, we've exposed all sorts of problems in Wilmar's palm oil supply.

Like Bumitama, which somehow got permission to turn a large chunk of forest that had previously been a national park into a palm oil plantation. Or the time our friends at WWF caught Wilmar buying bunches of oil palm fruit grown illegally inside Tessa Nilo national park.

Wilmar and its suppliers have also been linked to the devastating forest firest that swept Sumatra this summer.

While we're on the subject, will it stop trading with the Ganda Group, which is actively clearing Indonesia's forests but happens to be closely connected to one of Wilmar’s co-founders?

As we've seen with Asia Pulp and Paper, it is possible for companies to put their forest destruction behind them. Wilmar has an opportunity to do the same. My colleagues and I will be watching closely to make sure that it does - and we'll be keeping up the pressure on other companies to do the same.

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