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Sourcing palm oil responsibly: our partnership with AAK

With Proforest's support, palm oil giant AAK has achieved 100 percent traceability of its palm oil to mill. Here, Proforest director and co-founder Neil Judd talks about the partnership, what it means to be a 'critical friend' and the Proforest approach to responsible sourcing.

neilAAK partnered with Proforest in May 2014. What is the scope of the partnership?

The scope of the partnership is essentially to implement AAK’s Sustainable Palm Oil Policy. The policy includes commitments on sourcing RSPO certified palm oil, traceability and specific sustainability requirements. Implementation of the policy needs to be demanding and credible, yet realistic and achievable. In some activities, Proforest provides technical support to in-house teams, while in other areas where AAK does not have specific expertise, Proforest necessarily takes the lead.

In what ways can Proforest assist its partners in their different sustainability challenges?

It is no doubt easier to make policy commitments, than to ensure they are meaningfully implemented. In order to deliver robust implementation, Proforest has developed its own approach to responsible sourcing, based on years of experience with different forest and agricultural commodities. This provides a pathway of implementation along which we can support and guide the companies we are partnering with. Proforest’s responsible sourcing approach covers policy commitments, traceability, risk assessment, site verification and producer engagement. We believe that we offer our partners an unrivalled level of technical support. In addition, we are always aiming to maximize positive sustainability impacts, and to deliver that we utilize a ‘critical friend’ approach.

How would you describe the first year working alongside AAK?

I would say that it was largely dominated by the objective of achieving 100 percent traceability to mill. AAK’s commitment to meeting this has definitely been impressive, given the magnitude of the supply base and the large volumes involved. In parallel, we made a start on actually looking at relative risk levels of various origins, in terms of AAK’s policy commitments, and carried out the first batch of site verification assessments (in Peninsular Malaysia). It’s fair to say that implementation is going to involve a sustained and significant investment of effort to engage with suppliers and their mills, but AAK’s actions to date, including setting up a senior-level taskforce and an in-house training module, have demonstrated that the company is entirely serious about meeting the challenges ahead.

This interview appears in the AAK Sustainability Report 2014/15 and is reprinted here with the permission of AAK. 

Published 21.10.2015

Highlights from AAK's Sustainability Report

  • 100% traceability to mill achieved for all palm oil sourced at origin.
  • 97% overall traceability achieved for palm oil, palm kernel oil and their derivatives.
  • Completed qualitative risk assessments for all identified supplier mills.
  • Read AAK's Sustainability Report 2014/15 in full.


Responsible Sourcing: A Practical Guide

A practical, step-by-step guide to Proforest's approach to responsible sourcing.