Published 4 years ago.
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WRI’s RADD (Radar Alerts for Detecting Deforestation) will be deployed initially in Malaysia and Indonesia, which together make up about 90% of palm oil production globally. According to WRI, it will detect deforestation weeks faster than existing optical-based systems.
The World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a new, real-time
deforestation monitoring and alert tool that, they hope, will empower companies
to act more quickly on information about actors cutting or burning forests along
their supply chains.
The tool, called RADD (Radar Alerts for Detecting Deforestation) is the
result of a collaboration between 10 of the largest palm oil companies, WRI,
Wageningen University and Satelligence — a Netherlands-based remote
imaging company. It will be deployed initially in Malaysia and
Indonesia, which together make up about 90 percent of palm oil
globally; and according to WRI, it will detect deforestation weeks faster than
existing optical-based systems.
“By uniting users around a common set of information, we hope to better
facilitate coordinated follow up actions, accountability; and ultimately, impact
on the ground,” Anne Rosenbarger, Southeast Asia Commodities Manager in the
Food, Forests and Water Program at WRI, told Sustainable Brands.
The timing shows the urgency and need for such a tool, as Southeast Asia is just
emerging from another horrific fire
worsened by this year’s El Nino event. While they got less media attention than
the fires in the
tens of thousands of hectares burned; and haze spread as far as Thailand,
meaning huge amounts of CO2 was emitted into the atmosphere, and hundreds of
thousands were sickened by harmful haze.
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Some fires took place on oil palm
calling into question the deforestation commitments of companies. Two big
challenges, though, are attributing whose land fires are burning
— and then acting quickly. One key development that makes RADD both more
powerful and useful is the integration of radar technology. This matters because
cloud cover is pervasive over tropical regions.
cannot penetrate cloud cover and sometimes can be without data from high-risk
regions for weeks.
“Through the use of radar waves, the new system can penetrate cloud cover to
help detect forest clearance earlier than optical-based systems,” Rosenbarger
said. “Many tropical forest areas are quite cloudy, so being able to see through
the clouds will significantly improve how quickly users are alerted to
The companies who are part of the collaboration include commodities companies
Cargill and Sime Darby Plantation; palm oil companies Golden
Musim Mas and and Wilmar
consumer goods companies Mondelēz International,
Unilever. Together, they
represent a significant percentage of palm oil entering global commodity
markets, meaning that this tool could, if used effectively, make a real
difference on the ground.
“This pioneering initiative will support and boost our efforts in working
towards full traceability to the plantation, as we will now be able to see the
real-time picture from above while working with our suppliers on the ground
towards responsible palm oil,” Dr. Gotz Martin, Head of Sustainability
Implementation at Golden Agri-Resources, said in a press statement.
Of course, supply chains are complex; and sometimes, merely having information
about labor or environmental abuses within them isn’t enough for companies to
take action: PepsiCo and Nestlé took several years to finally cut a
with the Indonesian brand Indofood, despite the existence of several,
well-documented reports and media stories about issues in their palm oil
That is why another aspect of RADD might be just as important as its purported
speed and accuracy. All reports and alerts will be publicly available on WRI’s
platform — meaning that civil society groups and community leaders can see which
companies are taking action, and which ones are not.
“The RADD system will be made publicly available, so that a broad range of
stakeholders, from companies, to government, to civil society can all have
access to the same set of information,” Rosenbarger said.
We’ve known that deforestation is a problem in the palm oil sector for years.
With RADD, companies have one less excuse to fail to act and ensure their supply
chains are fully sustainable.
Published Nov 22, 2019 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
Nithin is a freelance writer who focuses on global economic, and environmental issues with an aim at building channels of communication and collaboration around common challenges.