At the Harapan Sawit Lestari Plantation, Cargill makes sustainability a priority, conserving the environment while helping farmers meet global demand.
Palm oil is a vital ingredient in thousands of items, from pizza dough and chocolate to shampoo and lipstick. Millions of people around the world depend on it, and its demand is expected to grow. But while there appear to be endless uses for this versatile oil, irresponsible production of palm oil can have a devastating impact on the tropical environments where the fruit grows, primarily across regions of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Growing interest in environmental conservation has led to increased concern about palm oil production. But since the beginning, Cargill’s work with palm oil has been rooted in the utmost concern for the environment. In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was founded to define global sustainability standards for the industry. This meant that Cargill, which has an established history of strict sustainability policies, was already ahead.
For one, Cargill avoids developing areas of high conservation value. These include peat lands and areas that are important to local communities. The company also started a no-burn policy on land clearing to protect biodiversity.
In 2005, Cargill acquired Harapan Sawit Lestari, a plantation in the West Kalimantan province of Indonesia. From the start, the company’s vision for sustainable, responsible work inspired the plantation’s operations. Cargill spent considerable time and effort on education, training and infrastructure, ensuring that its plantation operations adopted new sustainable techniques as it catered to growing global demand.
A key aspect of sustainability is yield intensification, where efforts are made to maximize the amount of oil gained from each hectare of land, while extending the health and productivity of each palm tree. By improving soil conditions, harvesting at precise times, using natural means of pest management (including rodent-hunting owls) and optimizing the application of nutrients, production has steadily increased using the same amount of land.
In addition, Cargill has instituted a zero-waste process to conserve resources. Empty fruit bunches are used for fertilizer, while shells and fiber serve as fuel to produce electricity for the plantation and its housing communities. Even the water used during the palm processing is treated and reused to irrigate and fertilize trees.
The new practices are better for the land and for the community: workplace safety has become an everyday priority and, over time, an integral part of the plantation’s culture. With increased family incomes and an enriched quality of life, the local communities of West Kalimantan are able to prosper and thrive.
In February of 2014, Cargill’s efforts were given global recognition. Its Harapan Sawit Lestari Plantation was awarded RSPO certification, a prestigious ranking that has given customers a higher level of confidence and trust in the palm oil that Cargill supplies.
Looking to the future, the company’s goals are even bigger, focused on preventing deforestation, avoiding the loss of peat soils (which store large amounts of carbon) and protecting the local communities involved in palm production against exploitation. With these efforts in motion, Cargill moves closer to a major first for a global trading company: a 100% sustainable supply chain for palm oil.