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Palm Oil Concerns the Global Forest Watch

Global Forest Watch, an initiative of the World Resources Institute (WRI), has recently released a palm oil risk tool that maps deforestation risk for palm oil mills worldwide. The PALM Risk Tool (Prioritizing Areas, Landscapes and Mills) assigns a risk rating to approximately 800 palm oil mills. Satellite data is used to identify deforested and fire treated areas. Mills that have heavily deforested regions within a 50 kilometer (31 mile) radius are assigned higher risk ratings; this is also the maximum distance that palm fruit can be transported in usable condition.

WRI’s Sarah Lake, Corporate Engagement Research Analyst for Global Forest Watch, has commented that “This tool … really enables companies to prioritize, in their supply chain, the areas and the suppliers that will allow them to achieve the greatest progress possible with the smallest investment.” However, in order to utilize the tool, companies must first identify the mills they source from.

“This tool … really enables companies to prioritize, in their supply chain, the areas and the suppliers that will allow them to achieve the greatest progress possible with the smallest investment.”

Global Forest Watch

Because oil palms grow well in regions where rainforests already exist, many rainforests have been cleared to make way for palm plantations. Widespread and increasingly rapid deforestation has become a significant international issue, especially with the rise of palm oil usage in everyday items; half of all consumer products use palm oil, from cosmetics and home care products to packaged food.  

Corporations worldwide have recognized the importance of tracing sources of palm oil. For instance, Unilever has committed to sourcing 100% of their palm oil sustainably by 2020. With the release of this new tool, companies are empowered to utilize data collected from supply chain transparency initiatives, and develop targeted strategies to mitigate deforestation.