Hundreds of companies have committed to ensuring that the production of raw materials used in their manufacturing does not cause deforestation and other social and environmental damage. Palm oil – present in half of all packaged consumer goods – is a key commodity in this battleground. Oil palm plantations are blamed for extensive deforestation, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia.
But not all sources of palm oil have the same risk of causing deforestation and environmental damage. For big consumer goods companies to trace their supply chains back to the mill – let alone the farm of origin – is a mammoth task. And when they’ve done that, how do they know whether a particular mill is implicated in deforestation or not?
The PALM tool
Global Forest Watch’s new tool was recently launched at the RSPO’s European Roundtable. The PALM (Prioritizing Areas, Landscapes and Mills) risk assessment tool will help companies that source palm oil to identify the mills in their supply chains that are most likely to be associated with past and potential future deforestation, or other negative environmental impacts.
The tool was developed by GFW with technical support from Proforest and Daemeter. Proforest helped to develop and refine the methodology, building on our extensive experience of conducting similar, bespoke risk assessments for our clients. Our technical expertise in mapping and interpreting complex environmental data helped to produce a simple, robust tool that synthesizes this complex data. Both Proforest and Daemeter also helped make the tool relevant and practical, ensuring that it captured production and sourcing realities.
Given the huge size of many supply chains, the tool can help companies to understand and prioritize risks in their supply chains. Crucially, it allows companies to prioritize their engagement with high risk suppliers in order to reduce the risks of deforestation and environmental damage from their operations.
A practical tool for prioritizing risk
The tool assesses risks within a 50km radius of a mill, which represents its probable supply base. It overlays this with environmental datasets such as forest cover, tree cover loss and peatlands. The user can then assess the extent to which certain environmental values remain or have been lost , as well as the trends in any losses, which help to predict further losses in the future. Mills can be analysed from a large dataset already on the GFW website, or users can upload their own mill coordinates for analysis.
Proforest team members Mike Senior, Jon Escolar and Veronique Bovee helped to develop the tool, contributing critical analysis and methodological insights. Read the blog from WRI for more details.