$270bn global investor coalition writes to 40 palm oil producers, financiers

More than 40 global institutional investors are calling on the palm oil industry – and those that finance it – to adopt policies to ensure it does not contribute to deforestation, development on peatlands, or human rights violations.

The coalition, with combined assets of around $270bn, has written to major palm oil producers, financiers and consumers including Singapore-listed Wilmar International and Golden Agri Resources, Unilever and HSBC (see list below).

It follows recent scrutiny of the industry over allegations of illegal deforestation, and what the investors term “rampant human rights violations including child and forced labor”.

Wilmar in particular has faced criticism from forest protection groups.

The campaign is being coordinated by Green Century Capital Management, the US-based investment advisory firm.

Signatories to the letter include sustainable investment firms like Calvert Investments, Pax World Management and Trillium Asset Management, and a range of faith investors such as Church of Sweden and the California Jesuits.

They are calling for “transparent, traceable, deforestation-free” palm oil supply chains.

“Fueling deforestation is bad business for any company seeking to position itself as a responsible, sophisticated global player,” said Lucia von Reusner, Shareholder Advocate at Green Century.
The comments were echoed by Rob Berridge, Director of Shareholder Engagement at Ceres, the US-based sustainability advocacy group.He said: “The investors we work with are asking the industry to eschew forced labor, habitat destruction and accelerating greenhouse gas emissions in favor of developing and operating palm plantations responsibly.”

It comes as the industry body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and its members have come under fire for failing to enforce supplier compliance and prevent deforestation.

Companies/financial firms written to (selected):

Golden Agri Resources
Sime Darby
Asian Agri
JP Morgan Chase
Morgan Stanley
Credit Suisse Group
Standard Chartered
Deutsche Bank

Food groups (selected):
Dunkin Donuts
General Mills
H.J. Heinz
Kellogg Company
Kraft Foods
The Hershey Company
J.M. Smucker