Indonesia’s biggest palm oil manufacturer on Wednesday promised to meet new standards aimed at preserving ecologically important peatswamp forests.
The announcement was cautiously applauded by environmental groups like Greenpeace.
Palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) and its subsidiary SMART, part of the Sinar Mas Group, pledged to partner with The Forest Trust (TFT) to develop new environmentally responsible practices.
SMART president director Daud Dharsono told the press that the companies would not develop plantations on High Carbon Stock and High Conservation Value forests and peatlands, which are prized by scientists for their biodiversity and their role in keeping the climate stable.
Scientists believe the deforestation of the carbon-rich forests plays a major part in global warming. Indonesia is the third biggest emitter of heat-trapping greenhouse gases due mainly to its ongoing destruction of the peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations.
Malaysia and Indonesia contribute about 85 percent of global production of palm oil, a cheap alternative to vegetable oil used in cooking oil, cosmetic products, soap, bread, margarine, and chocolate.
“Without better stewardship, the phenomenal growth of the palm oil industry could spell disaster for local communities, biodiversity and climate change as palm plantations encroach further and further into forested areas,” said TFT executive director Scott Poynton, as reported by AFP.
“We all know that this agreement counts for nothing if it’s not now implemented,” he added.
“We have worked with other companies to clean up their supply chains successfully, and it is our intention to do so again,” he said.
Greenpeace warily welcomed the move, saying it would put its campaign against GAR on hold to see if the company follows through with its promises, AFP reports.