Ranking Palm Oil Company Sustainability

November 21, 2014 Updated: November 21, 2014
 

 A new initiative ranks the world’s 25 largest publicly listed palm oil companies in terms of transparency around the environmental performance of their operations. 

The project, called Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit or SPOTT, was developed by The Zoological Society of London (ZSL). It includes nearly 50 sustainability indicators across seven categories, including membership and compliance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), greenhouse gas emissions policy, protection of forests, and supply chain traceability. Information is showcased on a map, enabling users to see deforestation, fire hotspots, and surviving forests within individual concessions. 

By publicly displaying the indicators, SPOTT aims to push palm oil companies to compete over sustainability. It also enables green groups to monitor companies’ compliance with zero deforestation commitments and other environmental best practices. 

“Rather than a static scorecard, ZSL SPOTT is a dynamic, interactive system that updates users on changes to company policies reflected in their assessment scores,” said ZSL in a statement. “The 25 companies each receive a percentage score for every category and a combined score for overall performance, to help them identify key areas for improvement, and measure how transparent they currently are. Stakeholders can monitor the activities of oil palm growers using the Google mapping tool with data layers for company concession site boundaries, protected areas, forest cover and loss, and NASA active fire alerts from the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch.” 

Topping the list is New Britain Palm Oil Limited, a firm with operations in Papua New Guinea that was among the first to join the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), an initiative that is pushing for stronger social and environmental standards for palm oil. Golden Agri-Resources — the first palm oil company in Asia to establish a zero deforestation commitment — tied with Malaysia’s United Plantations for the second best ranking. At the bottom of the last are five Malaysian firms, including Sarawak Oil Palms Berhad and TSH Resources Berhad, which operate in Malaysian Borneo. 

Because SPOTT includes only publicly listed companies that produce palm oil, there is still a significant gap in coverage. But nonetheless the project is the first to rate palm oil producers so rigorously and methodically. 

“Currently there is a lack of information regarding company commitments and SPOTT marks a step-change in industry transparency and the monitoring of environmental risk,” said James Horne, ZSL’s Transparency Project Coordinator. “ZSL will upgrade SPOTT to verify that commitments translate to action on the ground.” 

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