Musim Mas, a Singapore-based palm oil company, said last week that it will now avoid palm oil harvested from practices that cause deforestation.
The firm joins a number of other companies that have made similar pledges over the last year, including Wilmar International, which trades around 43 percent of the world’s palm oil and IOI Loders Croklaan, which controls 10-15 percent.
More than 90 percent of palm oil companies have now made “no deforestation” pledges. In addition, Musim Mas has also committed to the High Carbon Stock methodology, which aims to provide information on greenhouse gas emissions and socio-economic considerations to guide decisions on land conversion to oil palm plantations.
These pledges are notable because palm oil has a reputation for wreaking environmental havoc. Forests are often clearcut to make way for palm oil plantations, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions and loss of biodiversity. In addition, as Planet Experts has previously reported, land conflicts in Indonesia have often resulted in locals being kicked out of their homes.
Indonesia and Malaysia are the top producers of palm oil (around 85 percent of palm oil is grown in those two countries) and, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, “oil palm cultivation in Indonesia alone accounted for an estimated two to nine percent of all tropical land use emissions” between 2000 and 2010. As of 2013, tropical deforestation accounted for 10 percent of total global warming emissions.
However, palm oil is not going away anytime soon. It is in everything, including food products, cosmetics and even biofuels. According to non-profit Rainforest Rescue, around half of all everyday goods contain palm oil.
With Musim Mas joining major palm oil companies in its no deforestation commitment, Forest Hero’s Glenn Hurowitz wrote that if companies follow through on their commitments, it could help create “the economic and political conditions that could not only drive a dramatic reduction in deforestation for palm oil in Southeast Asia, but for crops all over the world.”