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On the Ground at PRI in Person: Working Toward Sustainable Palm Oil

Over the past several days, I, and my fellow United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UN PRI) palm oil Advisory Board members, have been taking part in the PRI in Person Conference. The conference is essentially the only global conference on the responsible investment calendar. It allows those of us within the investment community who focus on environmental, social, and governance issues to discuss pertinent topics, and share experiences with peers from across the globe.

I have been involved in a number of panel discussions and breakout sessions focused on sustainable palm oil. Given the material risks that deforestation poses to communities, companies, and shareholders, investors are increasingly interested in pushing for sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities throughout the supply chain.

Kate Kroll, Shareholder Advocate at Green Century (third from left), speaks during the “Palm Oil: Engaging on Asia’s burning ESG issue” panel at the PRI in Person Conference, 2016

This interest was demonstrated through stakeholder attendance at the conference panel, “Palm Oil: Engaging on Asia’s burning ESG issue,” which filled the room with close to 100 of the PRI members. The session outlined the scale and nature of palm oil related risks in South East Asia, and provided insights into how investor engagement can address them. Attendees included asset managers, Non-governmental organizations (NGOs), members of the media, and staff from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Green Century and Aviva Investors, represented by Abigal Herron, provided insight about the trip to Southeast Asia and how stakeholders can get involved moving forward from an investor perspective.  Anita Neville, VP of Corporate Communications and Sustainability Relations at Golden Agri-Resources,* which is one of the largest palm oil suppliers in the world and a leader among its peers, joined me on the panel. Other speakers included Adam Harrison, World Wildlife Fund’s Senior Policy Officer for food and agriculture, and Glenn Hurowtiz, Managing Director at Waxman Strategies.

For those of you who were unable to attend the panel, or for those who have been following this blog series, here is how you can get involved:

  • Follow Green Century: Stay up-to-date about our advocacy efforts regarding this issue and learn more about our Sustainable Investment Strategy as we mobilize investors for a join action mechanism for the sustainable sourcing of palm oil.
  • Support regulatory action: Help demonstrate that investors will demand and sustain market incentive for sustainably sourced palm oil.
  • Continue to pressure companies with existing policies: Traceability is key. You can demand companies publicly report on sourcing practices.
  • Get involved with the PRI Investor Working Group: Although the Principles do not refer to forest risk commodity markets specifically, commodities are a key concern amongst the PRI signatories and as a result, a commodities workstream has been formed. Sustainable palm oil is one of PRI’s 15 priority engagement topics and in 2010 a dedicated PRI Sustainable Palm Oil Investor Working Group (IWG) was formed to try and improve company practices throughout the palm oil value chain.
  • Follow Ceres’ efforts regarding Palm Oil: Ceres, a non-profit organization advocating for sustainability leadership, often publishes Key Performance Indicators regarding the sustainable sourcing of palm oil.
  • Learn more about this issue: The Green Century Forest Protection page, Rainforest Action Network conflict palm oil page, and NORAD’s new Chain Reaction Research Report are great places to start.

Kate Kroll, Green Century’s shareholder advocate working on forest protection, is in Southeast Asia this month reporting on the results of Green Century’s forest protection work in transforming the palm oil supply chain. Sign up here to get updates sent right to your inbox, or visit our site to see her earlier posts.

*As of June 30, 2016, no securities mentioned were held in the portfolios of the Green Century Balanced Fund or the Green Century Equity Fund. References to specific securities, which will change due to the ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or their distributor.

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