More businesses adjusting to demand for sustainable products

Palm oil plantations are booming businesses which are not showing any signs of slowing down. Photo courtesy of marufish/flickr.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (October 6, 2011) _ An increasing number of companies are changing in response to demand from consumers for products that have sustainable supply chains, said a leading representative of the world’s second largest palm oil producer.

“Business has changed dramatically over the past several years,” said Peter Heng, Managing Director of Communications and Sustainability at Golden Agri-Resources, speaking at the Forests Indonesia Conference in Jakarta on September 27. “Customers are demanding more sustainable products. They want to be involved in the conversation about the sustainability of production.”

Golden Agri-Resources recently adopted a new Forest Conservation Policy (FCP), developed in collaboration with The Forest Trust, an international NGO based in Geneva.

The FCP aims to ensure that the company has a “no deforestation footprint,” according to the firm’s website. The FCP says the company will not develop on forests with high levels of carbon, or on peatlands. It also states that there must be free, prior and informed consent from indigenous and local communities, and compliance with relevant laws and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Principles and Criteria.

“Businesses need to take the initiative to collaborate with multiple stakeholders in the search for common ground. Strong and positive relationships will evolve over time, as long as the rules are clear,” Heng said.

According to Golden Agri-Resources’ website, it is the world’s second largest palm oil plantation company with a total planted area in Indonesia of 446,200 hectares (including smallholders).

Independent observers say that buyers in the United States and Europe are increasingly demanding a range of forest products that are certified as being sustainably sourced.

In 2008, Unilever announced that all palm oil used by the company in its products would be certified sustainable by 2015. According to the Rainforest Action Network, other companies that have also made commitments to source their products sustainably include IKEA, Kraft and Nestle.