Agriculture and our world’s forests can – and must – coexist in a sustainable way. The global population is growing and the demands on our planet’s resources will grow as well. It is more important than ever to ensure that those resources are used fairly and sustainably, both for ourselves and future generations.
One of the most important commitments that has been made to date by the agricultural industry has been the ‘No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation’ commitment, abbreviated to NDPE. The palm oil industry has pioneered the use of this type of commitment as part of its efforts to create transformational change in the supply chain.
Each ‘part’ of the NDPE commitment creates specific goals for the industry to meet. They are all focused on protecting our planet’s resources and the people who grow them and live among them. With the increased scrutiny these goals bring to the industry, they also help to give consumers the reassurance they need when buying products containing palm oil.
An NDPE commitment not only means a thorough understanding of what is needed to achieve it, but it is also a promise to track progress, identify gaps where more action is needed, and work together across borders to implement the necessary changes.
This part of the commitment is designed to prevent any new deforestation being carried out to clear space for crop growing. It protects High Conservation Value (HCV) areas, which are natural habitats considered to be of outstanding significance or cultural importance, and High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests where the amount of carbon stored within the trees and vegetation is particularly high.
This part of the commitment means that there is no new development on peatland for agricultural purposes. Peatlands cover about 3% of the world’s land area and store a third of all global soil carbon. They help to keep freshwater clean and sustain fish for local people, as well as providing ecosystems for other animals like orangutan.
This part of the commitment highlights the fact that it is not only natural resources that must be protected, but also the indigenous communities who live next to them. This means they must be involved in decision making about projects which will affect them. It means smallholders and workers are supported, gender equality is promoted, and child labour is prevented wherever possible.
NDPE brings the main risks and challenges of large-scale agriculture together under one easily recognizable commitment. It matters so much because these commitments help to ensure land is managed properly. Valuable forests are saved, peatland is protected and preserved, and local people are treated fairly and given safe places to work and live.
NDPE commitments prevent any new damage from occurring. For the damage that has already occurred over the last decades when the science and the impact of it was less well understood, the NDPE commitments recognize that we need to sustainably manage and, whenever possible, rehabilitate the land.
It’s been a very busy few years for the palm oil industry, since the NDPE commitments were introduced. More and more retailers, brands and producers in the world have NDPE policies.
Over the past years, there have been serious efforts to make the palm oil sector more sustainable. In 2017, 84% of all palm oil entering Europe was covered by sourcing policies which focus on NDPE principles, and that number keeps growing.
Recently, a new reporting tool, NDPE Implementation Reporting Framework (known as NDPE IRF), was developed by Proforest to enable companies to track progress in delivering NDPE commitments in their palm oil supply chain. The members of EPOA are actively participating and supporting this framework.
There have been challenges along the way, but the industry is working harder than ever to improve its NDPE credentials and safely transform palm oil value chains.