ZSL launches new online tool to transform palm oil industry

Oil palm plantationThe Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a leading charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats, has today released the online Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT), a ground-breaking new project to transform how oil palm growers are monitored on their commitments to environmental and social best practice.

ZSL SPOTT is a free, interactive resource, designed for investors and other stakeholders in the palm oil sector, to assess oil palm growers on the information that they make publicly available about the sustainability of their operations.

As increasing demand for palm oil is linked to deforestation in the world’s most diverse ecosystems, ZSL is working with organisations such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to engage companies and build trust in the supply chain by making operations more transparent, in order to reduce negative environmental impacts.

Launched as part of ZSL’s industry information website, the Sustainable Palm Oil Platform (SPOP), the Toolkit combines satellite mapping technology with in-depth performance assessments on 25 of the largest publicly listed companies that grow oil palm.

The assessment framework is comprised of 48 indicators – framed as direct questions about best practice and its disclosure – across seven categories. These include whether companies meet RSPO reporting requirements, have environmental management, zero burning, and greenhouse policies, and full traceability along their supply chains.

Rather than a static scorecard, ZSL SPOTT is a dynamic, interactive system that updates users on changes to company policies reflected in their assessment scores. The 25 companies each receive a percentage score for every category and a combined score for overall performance, to help them identify key areas for improvement, and measure how transparent they currently are.

Stakeholders can monitor the activities of oil palm growers using the Google mapping tool with data layers for company concession site boundaries, protected areas, forest cover and loss, and NASA active fire alerts from the World Resources Institute’s Global Forest Watch.

Binary Data Melati 02
The Sumatran tiger's natural habitat is being destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations

The Transparency Toolkit also features a live newsfeed with bespoke palm oil content from Thomson Reuters, as well as links to over 200 pages of relevant information on the rest of the SPOP website.

James Horne, Transparency Project Coordinator at ZSL, said: “Currently there is a lack of information regarding company commitments and SPOTT marks a step-change in industry transparency and the monitoring of environmental risk. ZSL will upgrade SPOTT to verify that commitments translate to action on the ground.”

RSPO Secretary General Datuk Darrel Webber added: “RSPO appreciates the work of stakeholders such as ZSL in providing tools such as SPOTT, which can help RSPO members move further and faster in their journey towards sustainable development.”

Ben Ridley, Asia-Pacific Regional Head of Sustainability Affairs at Credit Suisse, also said: “With comprehensive indicators and regular updates, ZSL SPOTT can be a valuable resource for financial institutions and investors in making informed decisions that support a sustainable palm oil industry.”


ZSL's Sustainable Palm Oil platform

More news from ZSL

three children holding an oyster

Project to restore oysters around UK coastline launches school lesson packs to inspire children to protect oceans

natural rubber plantation

International conservation charity ZSL assess world’s most influential natural rubber companies, including leading tyre and glove brands, on their...

tope shark

Project SIARC (Sharks Inspiring Action and Research with Communities) offers communities the chance to get involved in safeguarding some of the...