Wilmar has been criticised for way it sources palm oil

Wilmar has been criticised for way it sources palm oil

Wilmar International, one of the world's largest suppliers of palm oil, has pledged to source the commodity more sustainably.

The Singapore-listed agri giant, which has come under fire for the way it produces the oil, said it would "ensure that both Wilmar's own plantations and companies from which Wilmar sources will only provide products that are free from links to deforestation".

"We believe that the palm oil industry can provide a sustainable and affordable source of vegetable oil to meet rising global demand for responsible products," Wilmar Chairman and CEO Kuok Khoon Hong said. "We can produce palm oil in a way that protects forests, clean air and local communities, all while contributing to development and prosperity in palm oil growing regions. We know from our customers and other stakeholders that there is a strong and rapidly growing demand for traceable, deforestation-free palm oil, and we intend to meet it as a core element of our growth strategy."

Wilmar supplies palm oil to food manufacturers including Unilever, which has made its own public commitment on the way it sourced the ingredient.

The Ben & Jerry's ice cream manufacturer has said all the palm oil it uses must be from traceable and certified sources by 2020.

Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer, said the consumer goods group was "truly impressed" by Wilmar's move. "Unilever firmly believes that it is only through constructive dialogue and close cooperation that we can lead the transformation of the industry. Wilmar, as our strategic partner in palm oil, is clearly committed, with us, to accelerating the much needed sustainable market transformation and to helping us to achieve transparent, traceable and certified palm oil supply chains."

Sigismondi added: "We will continue to engage with our suppliers, NGOs, governments, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, end users and other industry stakeholders to develop collaborative solutions to halt deforestation, protect peat land, and to drive positive economic and social impact for people and local communities."

Greenpeace said Wilmar's move had come after "pressure" from the campaign group, NGOs and consumers.

"Over the last seven years, Greenpeace has repeatedly exposed Wilmar's role in gross acts of forest destruction; sourcing from national parks, destroying prime tiger habitat, sourcing from suppliers linked to orang-utan graveyards or this year's forest fire crisis in Sumatra, to name a few," Bustar Maitar, head of a Greenpeace campaign to protect Indonesian forests, said.

Maitar said Wilmar's decision "has the potential to transform the controversial palm oil industry" but added: "Its success will be judged by Wilmar's actions to implement and enforce it."