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Tackling deforestation through Landscape Approaches 

March 20, 2019

The palm oil industry has drawn significant criticism over the last few years because of concerns linking production with deforestation. However, it’s also been a source of tremendous innovation and collaboration.

Cargill and other key players in the industry have long been working to produce and source palm oil responsibly. Programs to deliver training and more visibility have taken root across sourcing regions with significant scale. However, individual companies efforts will only take the industry so far. In order to drive long-term, transformational change, we must take a more holistic approach.

A new collaboration for progress in Siak and Pelalawan

In 2018, Cargill, Musim Mas, GAR, Pepsico, Danone, Unilever and Neste joined forces with Proforest and Daemeter (CORE) to take targeted action on the ground to combat deforestation through a new landscape initiative. A landscape level initiative allows companies, growers, buyers and other stakeholders such as local governments and civil society to join together and tackle persistent, complex social and environmental challenges in a defined geography with greater focus and impact.

This newly formed coalition will focus its work in the Siak and Pelalawan districts of the Riau province in Indonesia. These regions were chosen because of their long history of palm oil production, high rate of deforestation and chronic fires, social issues relating to workers’ health and safety, land conflicts, and concerns around smallholder farmers’ rights.

Together, the coalition aims to develop scalable solutions to address these environmental and social issues. We hope to empower local organizations, improve farmer livelihoods and ultimately transition large parts of both districts to sustainable landscapes that protect forests and those working in agriculture. There are existing initiatives in both districts that address some of these issues, including our work with Musim Mas in Siak to trial High Carbon Stock (HCS) and High Carbon Value (HCV) assessments with smallholders. The coalition plans to build on and support these efforts to promote local ownership and greater collaboration among stakeholders.

At Cargill, we’re excited about this partnership because we believe that transformation happens when we come together.

“Much like supply chains, environmental and social impacts often span physical and political boundaries and effect or involve multiple stakeholders,” said Cargill’s APAC Sustainability Lead Alexandra Experton.  “Partnering with other companies and CSOs in landscapes, which serve as palm oil supply sheds, allows us to not only better understand the intricate interplay between environmental issues and livelihoods but also combine our resources and experiences to tackle the most pressing issues in a more powerful, innovative and efficient manner. Additionally, it allows us to ensure more sustained interventions by aligning and engaging with governments.”

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Looking forward

Tackling deforestation is complex, and we must ensure we meet the needs of all stakeholders. We are encouraged by the progress that we and others in the industry have made to date, but we know there is more to do.

We are eager to see what we will learn in Siak and Pelalawan that we can take to a larger scale in other areas. We believe by identifying areas of continued challenge, working on the ground with key partners and empowering local organizations and producers we can more effectively address critical issues, build capabilities and ultimately transform the palm sector.