Industry and non-governmental organisations agree to a unified approach to 'no deforestation'

Posted on: November 21, 2016

On 8 November 2016, the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Convergence Working Group, announced that they will be releasing a revised High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Toolkit to converse land to oil palm plantations in a sustainable manner, early 2017. The HCS Convergence Group involves major players in the palm oil industry as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The new toolkit combines the two former competing methodologies (HCSA and HCS+) for determining what constitutes a ‘High Carbon Stock’ landscape. It has an agreed-upon set of rules for companies to use when implementing commitments to address deforestation that may be associated with their operations.

“The Group has agreed on a single, coherent set of principles for implementation of companies’ commitments to ‘no deforestation’ in their palm oil operations and supply chains,” according to a statement announcing the agreement. “The members of the Group worked together constructively to develop recommendations that provide a roadmap forward for addressing the issues that remain in a collaborative and integrated way.” The agreement reached by the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Convergence Working Group includes the fundamental elements of a methodology to protect HCS forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands. Forest stratification, below-ground carbon, and decision-making in ‘young regenerating forests’, a class of forest that was at the heart of the disagreement between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches, are all dealt with in the new methodology.

Significant milestone
“This is a significant milestone for the palm oil industry to enable us to meet our "no deforestation" commitments. This initiative is a clear demonstration of what is possible when all parties collaborate openly. While we recognise there are issues that need to be further addressed, such as balancing the socio-economic development needs in highly forested landscapes, we are committed to working through these with the other members of the HCS Steering Group,” said Datuk Franki Anthony Dass, Managing Director, Sime Darby Plantation.

Game changer
"Agreeing a single approach to put No Deforestation into practice is a huge step forward for the palm oil sector and the environment. HCS convergence has not been an easy road but we got there in the end - this is a game changer for the forests and communities where oil palm is expanding in Asia and Africa," said Kiki Taufik, Global Head of Indonesian Forests, Greenpeace.

Other issues
In recognition of the fact that the methodology must evolve over time, members of the HCS Convergence Working Group say they are not only committed to furthering the implementation of the converged approach they’ve proposed but also to addressing a variety of important issues that have not yet been dealt with, such as developing systems to ensure high-quality assessments, independent verification, and means of redress for communities whose rights are infringed upon.

“We welcome the agreement that the converged High Carbon Stock method will include Social Requirements to ensure that the rights and livelihoods of indigenous peoples, local communities, smallholders and workers are properly accommodated,” Marcus Colchester of the Forest Peoples Programme said in a statement. “Respect for customary rights, food security, community involvement in land use planning and free, prior and informed consent are critical building blocks to ensure sound development outcomes, alongside incentives and support, for both communities and planters, to maintain forests and high conservation values.”

Organisations reaching agreement are: Asian Agri, Cargill, Golden Agri-Resources, IOI Corporation Berhad, KLK, Musim Mas, Sime Darby, Unilever, and Wilmar International, as well as NGOs as Forest Peoples Programme, Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, TFT, Union of Concerned Scientists, and WWF.