After a year of intensive work, the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Convergence Working Group announced in Bangkok today that they have reached agreement on a single, coherent set of rules for implementation of companies’ commitments to “no deforestation” in their palm oil operations and supply chains. The members of the Group – which includes palm oil traders, consumer packaged goods companies and NGOs – worked together to develop recommendations that provide a roadmap forward for addressing the issues that remain in an integrated and collaborative way.
Interestingly, one of the members of the Working Group is IOI Group, a Malaysian palm oil producer that was suspended earlier this year from the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – of which it is a founding member – over allegations that three of its subsidiaries violated a host of RSPO standards within their operations in Borneo. Following the suspension, IOI was quickly dropped by a number of CPG companies - including Unilever, also a member of the Working Group. Four months later, in August, RSPO announced it had reinstated IOI's membership, saying it is “satisfied that IOI has met the conditions set out in its letter to IOI,” Greenpeace Indonesia and the Center for International Policy asserted that they had yet to see any real action on the ground. Here’s hoping IOI’s inclusion in the Group bodes well for the continued improvement of its practices.
Meanwhile, the new agreement outlines:
- Fundamental elements of the converged methodology that protects HCS forests, HCV areas and peatlands, including forest stratification and decision-making in “young regenerating forest” within fragmented landscapes, the role of carbon and robust implementation of FPIC and other social requirements;
- The intention for functional and institutional integration of HCS with the HCV Resource Network; and
- A roadmap for resolving outstanding issues through a collaborative process and field trials which include:
- Approaches to estimating and managing the overall carbon impacts of land-use;
- Rules for applying an HCS methodology in high forest cover regions;
- Application of the HCS methodology by small producers and communities; and
- Assuring protection of the HCS forests together with other conservation areas
The recommendations will be incorporated into the revised High Carbon Stock Approach Toolkit and the members of the Group are committed to further the implementation of these recommendations and to address the important remaining issues through their engagement in the HCSA Steering Group, including the possible adaptation and application beyond palm oil to other commodities and biomes.
The following organizations participated in the Group process and are endorsing the Agreement. They were supported in this process by the chairs of the HCSA Steering Group and the HCS+ Science Study.
- Asian Agri
- Forest Peoples Programme
- Golden Agri-Resources
- IOI Corporation Berhad
- Musim Mas
- Rainforest Action Network
- Sime Darby
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- Wilmar International
More details and the agreement as a whole can be read in full here.