Palm oil giant joins WBCSD to stress agriculture’s growing role in climate discussions

By Oliver Morrison

- Last updated on GMT

Image: Getty/surakit sawangchit
Image: Getty/surakit sawangchit

Related tags palm oil

Singapore-based palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources recently became the newest member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. According to the two organisations, the move illustrates action on sustainable agriculture coming to the fore.

In the race to tackle climate change, food systems – responsible for a third of all greenhouse gases – have not been seen as a frontrunner.

But momentum is shifting, with action on sustainable agriculture coming to the fore following recent pledges at COP28 and the Food and Agriculture Organization's roadmap.

In line with this, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), a CEO-led organisation of over 225 international companies, recently announced Singapore-based palm oil producer Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) as its newest member.

The global agribusiness joins WBCSD's existing network of businesses dedicated to accelerating the transition towards a more sustainable world.

Anita Neville, GAR's chief sustainability and communications officer believes agriculture is set to play a growing role in climate discussions.

“I’m reassured by recent pledges at COP28 and the Food and Agriculture Organization's roadmap that recognise the urgency and importance of taking action on sustainable agriculture,” she said.

“The question now is how we put these pledges into action in ways that will support farmers.”

As one of the world’s largest palm oil agribusinesses, GAR has an important role in advancing this agenda, she said. As a WBCSD member, she now hopes that GAR can do more to support a thriving and resilient agriculture sector that helps farmers to flourish.

“Through our work across half a million hectares of palm oil plantations in Indonesia and connections to more than 800,000 independent smallholder farmers, we believe we have a significant opportunity to scale these solutions across our supply chain.”

The partnership will build on GAR's approach to sustainable palm oil production, she added. “We believe in the power of partnerships to tackle complex, interconnected issues, from tackling deforestation and protecting biodiversity to providing farmers with access to finance or enhancing productivity through technical innovation and R&D.”

GAR is looking ahead to consider how it responds to critical issues like emissions, human rights and improving agricultural practices across the supply chain, she added.

“The GAR Social and Environmental Policy (GSEP) has been in place since 2015 and sets the expectations for not only for how our business should act but what we expect from all of our partners and suppliers. This includes commitments on critical issues like No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation (NDPE) and protecting valuable High Carbon Stock (HCS) areas.”

GAR is also aiming to train 100,000 smallholders in regenerative and sustainable agriculture practices by 2035 and is targeting Net Zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Joe Phelan, WBCSD's executive director in the Asia Pacific region, explained the partnership with GAR will help to further serve its wider member base.

“GAR’s commitment to emissions transparency and traceability aligns with WBCSD's goals for nature restoration, climate improvement, and equity,” he said. “Its involvement in the Agriculture & Food Pathway, supporting the Equitable Livelihoods workstream, highlights our joint dedication to robust and sustainable agriculture and food systems, and supporting equitable livelihoods for all workers.

“This partnership ensures a comprehensive approach to sustainable practices in the food and agriculture industry, contributing to the broader interests of WBCSD's diverse member base and paving the way for a pipeline of membership opportunities in the food and agricultural sectors, as well as other affiliated industries, in Asia Pacific and globally.”

He added that WBCSD is looking to increase its membership in APAC. “This year, our collaborative efforts with member companies aim to continue to drive sector transformation throughout the Asia Pacific region, focused on decarbonisation and nature positivity. We have seen growing momentum in the region, having welcomed several new members to our network in recent months, including Alibaba and Nufarm.

With regards to decarbonisation, we are collaborating closely with our members to accelerate the coal phase-out and helping them to navigate the challenges and complexities associated with implementation. We are also supporting businesses with their carbon accounting and disclosures through the Partnership for Carbon Transparency (PACT) initiative, to define and accelerate credible, verified primary emission data exchange, to reach net zero emissions targets by 2050. “

In terms of nature positivity, the launch of the Taskforce for Nature-related Disclosures (TNFD) framework last year signifies a crucial milestone in integrating nature and biodiversity into investment practices, he added. “As we transition from a voluntary to mandatory reporting landscape, WBCSD is placing significant emphasis on educating member companies on the value of TNFD, collaborating with them to align their goals with nature positivity, working towards sustainable business decisions.”

Among WBCSD's other organisational priorities, meanwhile, there is a heightened emphasis on education and building capabilities. Technology has a crucial role to play in driving positive change and addressing evolving sustainability challenges, both in terms of innovation, and adoption, he said. “We are actively steering efforts to navigate and strengthen climate accountability systems, including the ongoing implementation of CPAS in the region.

“Through championing these priorities, WBCSD seeks to elevate ambition, promote collaboration, and facilitate a robust transition toward a more sustainable and resilient future.”

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