Exclusive interview: Q&A with Cargill on palm oil sustainability
We were recently able to interview Marie Lavialle-Piot, sustainability program manager, Cargill, about why sustainability is important in today's global palm oil market. Cargill works to improve the supply of palm oil, as well as making sure that it is sustainable, full traceable, and transparent. Cargill also works with farmers to bring more sustainable palm oil into today's markets.
Douglas J. Peckenpaugh: Why is sustainability important in today’s global palm oil market?
Marie Laville-Piot: Cargill is committed to nourishing the world in a sustainable and responsible way. Millions of people rely on palm oil to feed their families and support their livelihood. Demand for edible oil will continue to grow as the world population keeps growing. Palm oil, the highest yielding edible oil crop using less land per ton of oil produced than any other vegetable oil, is best positioned to satisfy this demand.
In this context, we are working on a model which balances natural conservation and economical development where forests are protected as much as labor and human rights, and smallholder farmers are successful.
Furthermore there is an increasing demand from consumers for more transparency across food supply chain and more conscious food that will respect environment and social rights.
DJP: What is Cargill doing to improve the supply of sustainable, fully traceable and transparent palm oil?
MLP: We are implementing meaningful and innovative supplier engagement programs in Indonesia, Malaysia and Latin America. As we recognize that issues are common to many actors in a region across commodities, Cargill is investing in landscape initiatives to drive social and environmental change at scale and improve the livelihood of farmers while protecting forest areas. We are also joining platforms to address labor and human rights issues such as the Decent Rural Living Initiative, an industry-led initiative with four other companies which aim to improve the labor and human rights of agricultural workers in palm oil industry in Indonesia.
In 2017, we achieved 96 percent of traceability to mill level and 55 percent to the plantation. Traceability to plantation remains today one of the greatest challenges of the industry. Cargill has already started to collect plantations’ coordinates within high priority landscapes and will extend it to a global collection by 2020. As more information becomes available through new legislation and the supply chain, we will be improve the granularity of information to strengthen our monitoring system.
In 2018, we are implementing a policy verification compliance mechanism to demonstrate the compliance of our supply chain with our commitments, and measure our social and environmental impact. We are also investing in technology to strengthen the monitoring of land development in our supply chain using radar technology. We will keep reporting our progress and efforts on regular basis to support full transparency.
DJP: How does Cargill work with its palm oil suppliers, including farmers, to help bring more sustainable palm oil to market?
MLP: We’ve built strong and trusted relationships with our farmers and suppliers for many years to drive change in our supply chain. Smallholder farmers are very important as they represent more than 40 percent of our supply chain.
Cargill is implementing meaningful and innovative supplier engagement program in Indonesia, Malaysia and Latin America to improve practices on the ground. We provide training on social and environmental issues through workshops, events and field visits.
We are also financing the training of farmers on good agricultural practices and support them in achieving RSPO certification. This results in higher yield, better market access and improved livelihood.
We partnered last year with Winrock and IDH to develop a smallholder protocol for sustainably managing peat areas and responsibly replanting palm oil trees. In 2018, we are looking at rolling out our smallholder empowerment tool across geographies, which aims to improve farm economics, forest protection, and traceability.