Sustainable Palm Oil
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An infographic of Olam's Palm Quarterly Dashboard, showing progress against commitments, Gabon, Olam.

Our Sustainable Palm Oil Policy and our Living Landscapes Policy lay out our commitment to the protection of forests and high conservation value areas such as primary forest, High Carbon Stock Forest (HCS), High Conservation Value (HCV) areas and peatlands.

In Gabon, we are actively protecting 72,000 ha of High Conservation Value (HCV) forest and other areas such as buffer zones; this is 50 percent of our overall oil palm concession area of 144,000 ha.

We are the first company globally to meet the new HCV assessment requirements of the HCV Resource Network. This was done for the Mouila Lot 3 plantation in 2015 by assessors licensed through the HCV Assessor Licensing Scheme, and going through independent peer review.

In 2011 we were the first company to meet the RSPO’s new plantings requirements in Africa for the Awala plantation. To date 55,385 ha of our palm plantations in Gabon are RSPO certified and we are on track to achieve 100 percent RSPO certification of our operations in Gabon by 2021.

For our plantations, we only operate in savannah, scrub, woody pioneer vegetation or logged-over forest areas where carbon stocks are significantly lower than mature forest. We do so only after a third-party assessment (based on a combination of stakeholder consultation, LIDAR mapping, biodiversity surveys and forest inventories) with full public and expert consultation to confirm no presence of HCV, and that development will not have significant negative impacts on conservation in a broader landscape.

We are not planting in any wetland areas, and have taken necessary steps to protect water bodies in and adjacent to the plantation areas, where they exist.

We fully recognise the importance of conserving biodiversity and preserving habitats of animal and plant species.

In Gabon, we are preserving valuable natural habitats for native species including elephant, chimpanzee, gorilla and forest buffalo, as well as a host of lesser known protected, rare or endemic species. We have planned migration corridors between adjacent conservation landscapes.

We have conducted extensive biodiversity surveys during our Environmental and Social Impact Assessments and supplementary surveys during the start-up phase of operations to guide land use planning, zoning and management. Once developments are completed, these impacts will be continuously monitored, tracked, and resurveyed every 3 to 5 years for better management of conservation objectives.

The identification and setting aside of High Conservation Value (HCV) areas is undertaken with the help of recognised experts, approved by the HCV Resource Network Assessor Licensing Scheme. Almost all of this HCV area is logged forest with a mix of secondary and old-growth species.

Teams at each of our plantation areas are dedicated to managing these conservation areas, working with the local communities to raise awareness about the importance and process of maintaining the sanctity of these sites. Additionally, they work with the national authorities to enforce anti-poaching regulations and to improve understanding of the hunting laws and the status of protected species.

The numbers of great apes (most notably Western Lowland gorillas and chimpanzees) near our concession areas are relatively sparse and include some family groups and individual apes. In 2015, Dr Christopher Stewart, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, contributed to a book by the Arcus Foundation: State of the Apes – Industrial Agriculture and Ape Conservation (see Chapter 5) which sets out the pillars of our ape management plan:

1.       Allocate areas for intact habitat (HCV areas) for preservation

2.       Ensure robust baseline and ongoing monitoring protocols

3.       Require scheduling of land preparation to enable wildlife to move to HCV areas

4.       Implement protocols that mitigate potential for disease transmission between apes and humans

5.       Impose hunting controls and raise awareness among local communities

6.       Support the development of subsistence programmes to promote alternatives to hunting.

We are fully supportive of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). To date 55,385 ha of our palm plantations in Gabon are RSPO certified and we are on track to achieve 100 percent RSPO certification of our operations in Gabon by 2021.

In 2011 we were the first company to meet the RSPO’s new plantings requirements in Africa for the Awala plantation, and in August 2016 it became the first African palm plantation to achieve RSPO certification. In January 2018 the Bilala mill and plantation (Lot 1) of our Mouila plantation achieved certification and we expect to achieve certification for the Makouke operations in 2019.

We welcome the ongoing efforts by the international conservation community to define and protect High Carbon Stock forests.

Since 2012 we have worked with independent scientists to measure the carbon stocks of our leases as part of our Environmental Impact Assessments and follow-up work, and we have supplied the data to the Government of Gabon to inform land use planning.

There are several High Carbon Stock (HCS) initiatives in development that relate to our plantations. Firstly, it is necessary for Gabon to set out how it will deliver on its UNFCCC commitment to conserve HCS forests. Secondly, 2 major international multi-stakeholder groups comprising NGOs and businesses have been collating the evidence necessary to define HCS for palm plantations.

The first to publish was the HCS Approach Steering Group in April 2015 with the “HCS Toolkit”. This goes a long way to defining ‘viable forest areas’ but is “designed for use in fragmented forest landscapes and mosaics”. Such a landscape is not typical of Gabon. We believe that HCS, HCV and FPIC are interlinked and complementary concepts and that a context-suitable HCS process is needed for much more highly forested nations such as Gabon.

In December 2015, the High Carbon Stock+ Science Study was launched following independent testing of its methodologies in our Palm and the Government of Gabon’s Mouila plantations, demonstrating the potential viability of carbon neutral, equitable and transparent plantations. The methodology seeks a holistic approach that achieves carbon neutrality and protects biodiversity, ensures socio-economic benefits for local communities and achieves economic viability.

As part of the rigorous testing by the independent HCS+ Technical Committee led by Sir Jonathon Porritt and Dr John Raison, we put forward its oil palm operations in Gabon to “assess the feasibility of the HCS+ methodology in real world conditions”, particularly for those countries such as Gabon that have extensive forest cover.

In the second half of 2015 the Technical Committee successfully tested the HCS+ methodology in Gabon against 3 main areas:

·         Delineating HCS forests and soils

·         Estimating the carbon balance of the concessions when applying the principle of carbon neutral development that includes the protection of set-aside HCV and HCS forests; and

·         Reviewing our socio-economic approach and comparing it to the recommendations of the HCS+ socio-economic methodology.

The results demonstrated that it is technically possible to create carbon neutral plantations, even in a heavily forested country like Gabon. In our case, based on historic data, the methodology estimates that the Mouila plantations will fix around 1.3 million tonnes of carbon (4,8 million tonnes CO2 equivalent) over the first 25-year rotation.

This is due to the plantations being mainly in savannah grassland (palm plantations contain far more carbon than grasslands), and to the large areas of logged forest which have been set aside in HCV areas (over 50% of our total concession area) that are expected to fix large quantities of carbon as they regenerate and recover under the active protection of our management. This approach is key to the HCS methodology – rather than avoiding or given back HCV concession areas, oil palm companies are rewarded for effective conservation efforts, helping to prevent illegal logging and maintain carbon stocks.

Dr Christopher Stewart, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability comments:

“We are pleased to have been the first company to field-test the HCS+ methodology in our own plantations, and to have been able to contribute to this important study. From the very beginning it has been our aim to develop oil palm plantations that respect traditional rights and protect biodiverse, high conservation value forests and, of course, high carbon stock forests.

“While the debate continues around an HCS definition that can be applied across all growing countries, we now have a robust methodology to minimise or even eliminate any negative climate impacts of our own plantations. We hope that the advocates of zero-deforestation, forest conservation and carbon neutral agriculture will eventually converge on a single HCS framework so that the whole of the industry can work towards an objectively verifiable goal of 100% sustainable palm oil. In the meantime, we will continue to support the science underpinning HCS methods and the land use policies required in Gabon to achieve our commitment to forest conservation.”

The Olam HCS+ case study is published as an Appendix to the Independent Report of the Technical Committee. See pages 76 – 101. More information on Olam’s Sustainable Palm Oil Policy can be found here.

Maintaining water quality is a key priority for us. We identify and exclude riparian zones and steep areas from development to maintain the quality of water bodies that are in and adjacent to our sites.

We protect all rivers, streams and lakes with broad, vegetated buffer zones to prevent sediments, fertilisers and other agrochemicals from reaching surface waters. We carefully control the timing and quantity of fertilisers, and other inputs, to minimise leaching to the water table, and our mills are built to maximise water efficiency and to treat wastewater to safe levels.

As part of our Environmental Management Plan, we monitor water quality by carrying out sampling in addition to maintaining forested riparian areas and planting cover crops to prevent erosion.

We have also responded to the communities’ need for a reliable water supply, and drilled or rehabilitated wells and pumps in villages around our plantations.

We recognise that feedback and input from stakeholders is valuable because it helps to drive best practices, evaluate compliance of our suppliers and increase transparency in our supply chains.

Our Grievance Procedure describes how we handle any grievance from any external parties, employees, individuals, communities and non-governmental organisations concerning the implementation of our Policy.

For our third-party sourcing, supplier selection and screening is an ongoing process and suppliers could change over time according to market dynamics.

The Grievance Procedures are provided here and our Grievance log here. Grievances can be submitted through any of the following channels:

By email to

By telephone to

 +603 64116771

By fax to

 +603 64416772

In writing to

 C-4-2-10, Solaris Dutamas, No 1 Jalan Dutamas 1,   50480 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
 Attention of: Palm Sustainability

The grievance should include provision of the following information:

·         Full name*

·         Name of organisation (if any)*

·         Contact details (phone/fax/email address)*

·         Description of the grievance in detail

·         Evidence to support the grievance

*While grievances can be made anonymously, providing full contact details enables us to better understand and address the concern.

Establishing living landscapes

Gabon’s natural riches are well protected through an effective National Parks network (11% of land area), and within the extensive forestry concessions that are subject to sustainable forestry laws. In the past, Gabon’s economic dependence on fossil fuel exports, comprising about 50% of GDP, had led to under-investment in agriculture, and despite having a population of just 1.6 million people, 60% of the food consumed in Gabon is imported.

In developing the plantations, selected land areas were assessed at the site level for suitability from an agricultural, biodiversity and social perspective in order to meet the requirements of our Olam Sustainable Palm Oil Policy, including our Commitment to Forest Conservation. Through robust, independent third-party assessments we have identified and set aside 50% of our concession as conservation area. 

Want to know more about our edible oils?

Annual Progress Update 2018

We have published an update charting our progress against our roadmap of commitments detailed in our Sustainable Palm Oil Policy.

National Geographic: December edition

National Geographic addresses challenges of the global palm industry and cites our oil palm operations as a positive example of environmentally and socially responsible palm production.

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