The new Universal Mill List, developed by the World Resources Institute (WRI), Rainforest Alliance (RA), Daemeter and Proforest, was launched earlier this month, creating an industry-wide resource that should make it easier for companies to identify and manage social and environmental risk in their palm oil supply chains.
Despite many companies having made ambitious commitments to source their agricultural commodities responsibly, tracing these commodities back to their sources has often remained a challenge. Commodity supply chains are often complex, and most companies do not buy directly from producers but from suppliers who source from hundreds of mills, which in turn source from multiple plantations in a given area.
To overcome this, efforts to map supply chains have been developed to focus on where the products first enter the supply chain. For palm oil, this is usually a mill, since it is important to process palm oil within 24 hours of harvest and therefore the mill is a good indicator of the location from which the commodity has been sourced. This can therefore provide a reliable starting point for conducting preliminary risk assessments, field-level verifications and supplier engagement.
Up to now, however, there has not been a universal approach to the harmonisation of mill data, or any industry-wide agreement on which mill dataset to utilise. Many companies have already chosen to create and publish their own supplier mill information lists; yet there are often many errors, duplications and inconsistencies with other data sources, such as satellite imagery, reports, certifications, research and assessments. This creates a number of challenges for ensuring accurate reporting and monitoring of efforts.
The Universal Mill List (UML) runs the publicly available data through a complex database to cross-check this against different data contributed from processors, traders, consumer good manufacturers, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and FoodReg, which is then subject to a rigorous process of checking and double checking. Each mill is assigned a “universal ID” which ensures there is no duplication across datasets. The result is a universal, verified and reliable source of mill data, mapping a total of 1,815 mills across 26 countries
Find out more in the Global Forest Watch blog: Getting at the source: Universal Mill List improves traceability of palm oil supply chains.