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Partnerships to advance sustainable palm oil – how the GAR Social and Environmental Policy aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Posted: Sep 05, 2016 2 minute read Lim Shu Ling

Initiate Collaborate InnovatePartnerships are absolutely key for GAR to move forward on our sustainability journey. You can read all about this in our latest Sustainability Report 2015 which is based on the theme “Initiate, Collaborate, Innovate – Creating a Sustainable Future”.

Partnerships for sustainable development also happens to be one of the Sustainable Development Goals or SDG. In the last blog on our GSEP and SDGs, we took a look at one of the oldest key partnerships for GAR – the partnership with palm oil smallholders and how in helping them improve yield and productivity we are also contributing to sustainable practices in the industry. But this is only one of the collaborations that we are involved in as we tackle the complex and multi-layered issues surrounding sustainable palm oil.

Partnerships for forest conservation

Under the GSEP, we are committed to delinking palm oil production from deforestation. We do this through a promise not to develop forests which hold large amounts of carbon, peat lands and areas that are have a High Conservation Value.

17 Partnerships for the goalsWhen we first undertook this commitment in 2011, there simply weren’t many readymade guidelines to help us with thorny issues such as determining what to conserve and what to develop. We had to figure out a lot of it ourselves. One of the solutions was to partner with other stakeholders who had expertise in these areas.

Our work together with Greenpeace and The Forest Trust (TFT) has been instrumental in producing a new approach in forest conservation. Called the High Carbon Stock (HCS) Approach, it’s a scientific approach that helps determine which parts of the forests hold large amounts of carbon and should not be developed. Since the HCS Approach was launched we have seen others in the palm oil industry as well as in the forestry sector adopt the approach. And last year, the HCS Approach Steering Group published a toolkit to help companies implement the approach properly.

We would not be able to implement this approach without partnering with local communities on conservation efforts. One of the biggest issues which determines the success or failure of long-term conservation goals is the involvement and buy-in of the local community. Without it, an area designated for conservation on paper, may not be recognised as such by the people living in the area, which can result in encroachment and land being opened up for development. This can have disastrous consequences if, for example, the area is carbon-rich peat land that is drained and as a result becomes highly combustible during the dry season. The HCS Approach takes this into account and has guidelines for working with the community to recognise and agree forests to be conserved.

At GAR we want to go further and are deepening our engagement with communities through an innovative Participatory Conservation Approach. This involves Participatory Mapping followed by Participatory Conservation Planning. Since 2015, we have been conducting Participatory Mapping with communities across various concessions to identify key areas of importance to the community such as areas for maintaining food security. Earlier this year we followed this up by getting communities to consent to the setting aside of forest areas as community conservation forests. It’s an exciting development and we intend to continue working on these community partnerships to help us keep our promise to conserve 75,000 hectares of conservation forests we have identified in our concessions.

Participatory Mapping exercise
Involving communities in conservation: a Participatory Mapping exercise

We’ll be posting more updates on this innovative partnership in conservation here and on the GAR Sustainability Dashboard.

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