A breathing space for discussions has been agreed to by Olam International, a $10bn (£8bn, €9.5bn) agri-business group with interests in coffee, rubber, almonds, cacao, peanuts and rice as well as palm oil, and the Washington DC-based environmental organisation Mighty. The agreement was moderated by the World Resources Institute.
The company, headquartered in Singapore, will suspend forest clearance in Gabon for at least a year to allow for a multi-stakeholder approach to develop further specific criteria for responsible agricultural development in countries that have most of their land covered by forests.
During the negotiations, Olam, which has been criticised for a lack of transparency, will disclose more information about its Asian third-party palm oil suppliers and will demand that they follow sourcing guidelines drawn up by the High Carbon Stock Approach, an international forest protection group run from Kuala Lumpur. Olam will also publish how it manages supply chain risks and will work on eliminating worker exploitation in its operations and among its suppliers.
Mighty, for its part, will refrain from campaigns targeting Olam’s palm oil and rubber plantations during the year of discussions. The organization also said its representatives would work with NGOs and government officials in Gabon to push for more land conservation efforts and create sustainable development policies.
Many Asia-based companies have responded to the increased attention from NGOs, journalists and local authorities on their operations in Southeast Asia by looking to Africa as the next frontier for global palm oil production.