The group remains committed to ensuring that its ESG strategy can meet the evolving challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss and can deliver sustainable growth for the benefit of all stakeholders into the future.
Following a review of the group’s sustainability strategy and practices undertaken in 2022, the group has developed an implementation roadmap framed by a series of principles and procedures to evaluate and address climate-related risks and opportunities related to the group’s business and the wider community and to monitor the group’s response to such risks and opportunities. The group aims to deliver regeneration through addressing change, enhancing biodiversity, reversing environmental degradation and providing opportunities for stakeholder prosperity.
The group has made a commitment to achieve a 50 per cent reduction in net GHG emissions by 2030 and to work towards the longer term objective of net-zero emissions by 2050. To this end, the group has engaged with the SBTi, an international, cross-industry framework aimed at promoting corporate adoption and disclosure of verified, science-based targets concerning decarbonisation. Under this framework the group will be setting verified short and medium term emissions reductions targets which will be published and against which the group must report on an agreed schedule.
Work programmes and initiatives are driven by the need to adapt and thrive in the face of challenges presented by climate change. In 2022 the group’s estates and local communities were subjected to the third consecutive year of above average rainfall brought about by the dominant La Niña weather pattern in place since 2020. If, as is projected, rainfall becomes increasingly intense during the wet seasons, infrastructure must be less flood-prone and more weather resistant. This requires investment in road-stoning, drainage and water management. If, as is also predicted, weather conditions become increasingly hot during the dry seasons, water stewardship will become increasingly challenging. The group is exploring several projects aimed at increasing the resilience of the estate soils to both absorb and store increasing amounts of water and nutrients to help buffer the projected increasing weather variability. These projects include collaborative agreements to work with researchers and commercial interests in developing methodologies for increasing the optimisation of mill waste products and other sources of organic matter and nutrients.
In furtherance of these initiatives, the group has recently signed an initial five year collaborative research agreement with SEARRP, based in Sabah, Malaysia, complementing the existing agreement with University of Cambridge signed in 2021. These agreements provide the group with access to world-renowned research networks focused on working in fragmented tropical landscapes in which oil palm cultivation plays a major role. Initial collaboration has already commenced with the group participating in survey work being carried out as part of the SEARRP SEnSOR (“Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil Palm Research”) programme to evaluate the effectiveness of biodiversity management and monitoring programmes. It is intended to develop a comprehensive soil health monitoring and enhancement research programme involving researchers from local universities and the SEARRP network. In addition, the group has recently submitted a joint proposal with researchers from the University of Mularwarman and BRIN (the Indonesian National Research and Innovation agency) to investigate the potential for converting organic mill by-products into biofertilisers so as to replace imported inorganic fertilisers.