In 2014, we began a series of engagements to help our member Florin – a refiner of vegetable oils – ensure that the palm oil they were buying adhered to their Responsible Sourcing Policy. This led us to the Solomon Islands, where we visited the operations of Guadalcanal Plains Palm Oil Limited (GPPOL) – a grower and producer owned by New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL); which supplies palm oil and palm kernel oil to Florin. Through these engagements and field visits, we learnt about GPPOL’s plans to expand beyond its existing plantations; with much of the land belonging to local communities.
To guide GPPOL’s efforts in expanding its plantations responsibly and meet its 'No Deforestation' commitments, we conducted a High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) assessment in 2016 together with Hollow Wood Enterprises. Florin supported these efforts with us through a review of NBPOL’s new development procedures and training GPPOL staff on issues such as community land-use planning. These efforts across 15,277 ha of land led to 5,200 ha of land being identified for conservation and participatory community land-use planning across 1,525 ha of land.
Continuing this engagement, we’ve worked with GPPOL to review and train staff on procedures relating to proposed new developments. A key part is ongoing efforts to ensure Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is obtained from land-owning communities; and that environmental and social assessments are carried out in an inclusive manner and lead towards a meaningful land use plan and agreement with land owner communities.
The procedural review includes lessons from the 2016 HCSA assessment in the Solomon Islands, as well as assessments from four other NBPOL landscapes in Papua New Guinea. This highlighted the importance of genuine participatory mapping of land ownership, use, needs and values together with customary owners throughout the planning process to ensure HCS, HCV (High Conservation Value) and other assessments are understood, relevant and respected. To this end, we have been working with GPPOL in 2019 on training modules covering land use planning and financial literacy among others and are looking to roll these trainings out to the local communities in early 2020.