SPOTT – Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit – provides assessments of palm oil producers and traders and timber, pulp and paper companies on the public disclosure of their operations and their commitments to environmental, social and governance (ESG) best practice, to facilitate corporate engagement and increase industry transparency.

If you cannot find an answer to your question below, please ask us via our contact form.

Timber, pulp and paper company ESG transparency assessments

  1. Why does ZSL assess these timber, pulp and paper companies on SPOTT?
  2. How did ZSL select the timber, pulp and paper companies the companies assessed on SPOTT?
  3. How did ZSL select the indicators used in the timber, pulp and paper assessment framework?
  4. How often does ZSL update the assessments?
  5. Why are some of the company scores adjusted?
  6. What is reduced impact logging?

Palm oil company ESG transparency assessments

  1. What does a high score mean?
  2. Why does ZSL assess these palm oil companies?
  3. Why did ZSL select the indicators in the framework?
  4. How often does ZSL update the assessments?
  5. Why are some of the company scores adjusted?
  6. Why is ZSL focusing on RSPO certification? What about other standards?
  7. What are RSPO ACOPs?
  8. What additional data has ZSL requested from companies to submit in their ACOPs?
  9. What are HCVs?
  10. What does FPIC stand for?

Interactive map of concessions

  1. What has happened to the map related indicators?
  2. What are the “SPOTT company” oil palm concessions data?
  3. What are the “Other sources” of oil palm concessions data?
  4. What does the transparency bar do?
  5. Why are your primary forest data only for Indonesia?
  6. How do the NASA fire alerts work?
  7. How do we know companies are doing what they say they are?

 


Timber, pulp and paper company ESG transparency assessments

Why does ZSL assess these timber, pulp and paper companies on SPOTT?

Following the successful development of SPOTT assessments of palm oil producers and traders, ZSL’s Business and Biodiversity Programme expanded SPOTT to assess and score companies that produce forest products, specifically timber, pulp and paper.

Demand for furniture, paper, building materials, and other wood products is increasing. With careful planning and management the world’s forests can be sustainably managed to supply such products for generations. However, growing demand has led to the spread of unsustainable practices as producers bid to supply cheap products to global markets. Such practices can result in deforestation and forest degradation – with associated biodiversity loss and climate change impacts. The extraction of timber resources and the development of large industrial forest plantations can also have impacts on the lives of local communities and indigenous peoples.

As an international conservation charity, ZSL decided to focus initially on timber, pulp and paper companies operating in tropical forest landscapes due to their extremely high species diversity, their often vital role in livelihoods, and their importance as carbon sinks and stores. Over the past few decades the production of timber and pulp has increased in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, including a rapid expansion of forest plantations in the tropics. Such production is often undertaken by large and often multi-national forest product companies. SPOTT Timber, Pulp and Paper has been developed to promote transparency and accountability amongst these companies in order to support greater industry sustainability.

 

How did ZSL select the timber, pulp and paper companies the companies assessed on SPOTT?

To maximise SPOTT’s effectiveness, it was crucial that the timber, pulp and paper companies assessed by ZSL were those with the potential to have a significant impact on the environment and society given their size, location, and nature of their practices.

First we identified a list of tropical countries with large areas of high quality forest cover threatened by unsustainable timber, pulp and paper production. We then conducted a qualitative review of the literature, examining a number of issues in more depth, including the size of timber, pulp and paper industries within each country and the extent to which these industries are driving deforestation.

Following the selection of key geographies, we acquired data on timber, pulp and paper producers operating in these areas, including market capitalization, landbank, and other factors such as evidence of sustainable or unsustainable practices identified through media reports.
Read more on the company selection process here.

 

How did ZSL select the indicators used in the timber, pulp and paper assessment framework?

SPOTT’s indicators focus on the key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues associated with timber, pulp and paper production. They reflect and complement the expectations set out in other frameworks, guidelines, principles and criteria for sustainable production, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC).

ZSL has developed these 108 indicators following extensive consultation with various stakeholders including timber, pulp and paper producers, finance and manufacturing sector representatives, non-governmental organisations, and other industry experts.

SPOTT also benefits from the inputs of an ongoing Technical Advisory Group, providing invaluable guidance on the development of the indicator framework and company selection.

 

How often does ZSL update the assessments?

ZSL intends to publish assessments of timber, pulp and paper companies on an annual basis. The first set of assessments were published in November 2017.

View the latest assessments here.

 

Why are some of the company scores adjusted?

ZSL disables specific SPOTT indicators for companies to avoid penalising them unfairly when such indicators do not apply to their operations. Their maximum total scores are adjusted accordingly. For example, these instances include where companies:

  • are only involved in timber production or pulp and paper production;
  • do not own pulp and paper mills;
  • do not have an outgrower scheme and/or source from independent suppliers;
  • only have plantation-based production or natural forest-based production.

 

What is reduced impact logging?

Reduced impact logging (RIL) is a method of timber harvesting that minimises the impact on the environment by protecting soil, water and surrounding tree stocks. RIL involves a number of measures, such as:

 Establishing appropriate buffer zones to protect water ways

  • Cutting vines attached to stems to reduce damage to surrounded trees
  • Controlling the direction of tree felling to ensure minimal damage
  • Cutting stumps low to the ground to reduce waste
  • Log extraction methods that minimise soil disturbance and forest opening
  • Planning and construction for roads following environmentally friendly design guidelines. 

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Palm oil company ESG transparency assessments

What does a high score mean?

The main aim of SPOTT’s assessments is to provide a measure of a company’s overall transparency, including their commitment to social and environmental best practice. ZSL defines transparent information as information communicated by the company in publicly available materials that are freely and readily accessible to all stakeholders at no cost. Being more transparent is a vital component of environmental and social best practice.

A high score (i.e. >66%) indicates that the company is being transparent around their operations and their policies and commitments to environmental and social best practice, but this does not necessarily mean that the company is sustainable in terms of its impact on the ground. SPOTT does not score companies on whether they are putting their commitments to sustainability into action on the ground; however, SPOTT does feature interactive maps of company concessions and collates media stories on environmental issues (where available) to highlight potential risks that are currently too subjective to score.

We encourage all companies – not just those featured on SPOTT – to regularly report on their progress towards meeting their commitments. We urge SPOTT users – buyers and the financial sector, in particular – to engage with companies and scrutinise whether commitments are being implemented on the ground.

 

Why does ZSL assess these palm oil companies?

SPOTT assessments provide detailed snapshots of corporate transparency on sustainability issues. The current 50 companies on SPOTT represent around half of all landbank under oil palm cultivation and therefore their assessments provide industry stakeholders with a comprehensive overview of the state of the market, as well as specific insight into an individual company’s progress.

In order to develop an objective and efficient methodology for assessing oil palm growers, ZSL initially selected 25 oil palm growers based on their total market capitalization, using a publicly listed dataset of companies provided by Bloomberg on 1 October 2013.

Market capitalization was based on total company assets, not just those directly associated with palm oil, as companies are likely to attract investment based on the reputation of their entire operations.

In 2015, ZSL expanded the selection methodology to include landbank hectarage size, in addition to updated market capitalization in 2015, and offered SPOTT users and stakeholders the opportunity to nominate oil palm growers for assessment.

The following companies were anonymously nominated by SPOTT users to feature on the scorecard:

Three companies have also volunteered to join SPOTT. Since the November 2014 launch of SPOTT, Agropalma Group became the first company to volunteer to join SPOTT in response to a request for growers to do so. Two additional companies have volunteered for assessment in 2015: PT Musim Mas Group and R.E.A Holdings plc.

For the latest assessments published in June 2017, an extra four companies have been included, namely: Bunge Ltd, Indofood Agri Resources (previously assessed under its individual subsidiaries London Sumatra Tbk PT and Salim Ivomas Pratama Tbk PT), Louis Dreyfus Company B.V., and Makin Group.

 

Why did ZSL select the indicators in the framework?

SPOTT’s indicators focus on the palm oil industry’s main environmental impacts, reflecting and complementing the expectations set out in other environmental frameworks including the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, Palm Oil Innovation Group, RSPO and others, on which ZSL underwent consultation.

The original indicator framework featuring 54 indicators has recently been updated to cover a wider range of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, with companies now being assessed against 125 indicators. These were developed after extensive consultation form a variety of stakeholders including non-governmental organisations, palm oil producers and other industry experts. The indicators aim to provide more evidence to verify that company commitments translate into meaningful implementation on the ground.

SPOTT also benefits from an ongoing Technical Advisory Group, who have provided invaluable guidance on the content and function of the website.

 

How often does ZSL update the assessments?

To remain relevant, SPOTT assessments are currently updated on a biannual basis (i.e. every six months). Some indicators are updated on an ad-hoc basis, such as those relating to media stories, depending on their frequency and relevance.

ZSL aims to constructively engage with all companies featured on SPOTT to encourage greater ownership and dissemination of key information in the public domain, leading to improved assessment scores and building trust in a sustainable palm oil industry.

In future, as the number of companies and commodities on SPOTT increase, ZSL intends to publish assessments on an annual basis.

 

Why are some company scores adjusted?

ZSL disables specific SPOTT indicators for certain companies to avoid penalising them unfairly when such indicators do not apply to their operations, and their maximum scores are adjusted accordingly. These instances include where companies, for example:

  1. do not have scheme smallholders and/or source from independent fresh fruit bunch (FFB) suppliers
  1. are only oil palm traders or only oil palm growers
  1. do not currently own palm oil mills

 

Why is ZSL only focusing on RSPO certification? What about other standards?

SPOTT is not tied to a specific certification standard, but it is committed to supporting globally agreed expectations of environmental best practice. The RSPO is currently the most inclusive certification standard, in that it holds over 1,000 ordinary members, of which more than 120 are growers.

ZSL believes that all RSPO growers should meet the RSPO standard as a minimum, and that they can also go beyond the RSPO standard (e.g. RSPO Next, POIG, IPOP). SPOTT is intended to help growers with that progression.

SPOTT’s updated indicator framework covers other certification schemes including MSPO and ISPO.  ZSL has also ensured alignment with other certification standards including, but are not limited to:

Please follow the link for more information on palm oil certification standards.

 

What are RSPO ACOPs?

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Annual Communications of Progress (ACOP) reports are yearly requirements for all RSPO Ordinary and Affiliate members, as specified in the Code of Conduct. They allow the RSPO and stakeholders to assess members’ plans, actions and progress towards certification.

The RSPO members on SPOTT are assessed on whether they have submitted their most recent ACOP report to the RSPO and the information contained therein.

Please click here for more information on the RSPO ACOPs.

 

What additional data has ZSL requested from companies to submit in their ACOPs?

Following the GA10-Resolution 6g adopted at RSPO RT11, ZSL contacted the first 25 oil palm growers featured in SPOTT in June 2014 to introduce them to the project and request that they submit their concession site boundary maps, and those pertaining to their scheme smallholders, as well as their palm oil mill locations. Please see the full text of the data request. RSPO now requests the map data directly from RSPO member companies, while SPOTT only requests it directly from non-RSPO member companies.

 

What are HCVs?

There are currently six High Conservation Values (HCVs), as defined by the HCV Resource Network:

  • HCV 1 – Species diversity. Concentrations of biological diversity including endemic species, and rare, threatened or endangered species, that are significant at global, regional or national levels.
  • HCV 2 – Large landscape level ecosystems and mosaics that are significant at global, regional or national levels and that contain viable populations of the great majority of the naturally occurring species in natural patterns of distribution and abundance
  • HCV 3 – Rare, threatened, or endangered ecosystems, habitats or refugia.
  • HCV 4 – Basic ecosystem services in critical situations, including protection of water catchments and control of erosion of vulnerable soils and slopes.
  • HCV 5 – Sites and resources fundamental for satisfying the basic necessities of local communities or indigenous peoples (for livelihoods, health, nutrition, water, etc.), identified through engagement with these communities or indigenous peoples.
  • HCV 6 – Sites, resources, habitats and landscapes of global or national cultural, archaeological or historical significance, and/or of critical cultural, ecological, economic or religious/sacred importance for the traditional cultures of local communities.

 

What does FPIC stand for?

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is the principle that communities have the right to give or withhold their agreement to proposed projects that may affect the land they customarily own, occupy or otherwise use. For more information, please see the Forest Peoples Programme page on FPIC.

 

 

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Interactive map of concessions

What has happened to the map related indicators?

Following the GA10-Resolution 6g adopted at RSPO RT11, ZSL and the World Resources Institute (WRI) requested that oil palm growers submit their concession site boundary maps, (as well as those of their scheme smallholders) and palm oil mill locations.

Due to previous legal issues around publishing oil palm concession boundary maps in Indonesia and Malaysia, ZSL temporarily disabled three map related indicators for all featured companies in October 2015. This resulted in score changes in the Landbank and Traceability categories for the majority of companies. The indicators were re-enabled in October 2016 affecting scores again and total percentage. 

It has recently been clarified that there is no legal requirement preventing RSPO members to publish their concession maps, and that the RSPO may proceed to request the concession maps in shapefile format directly from its Indonesian grower member companies. Therefore any map related indicators have been re-enabled in the current round of assessments. 

 

What are the “SPOTT company” oil palm concessions data?

SPOTT features transparency assessments of over 50 palm oil producing companies, and displays their concessions (where available) on the SPOTT map using data provided by Global Forest Watch from the World Resources Institute (WRI). These are divided into two layers:

  • Company disclosures (purple), concessions submitted to WRI and ZSL following RSPO GA10 Resolution 6g
  • Government maps (orange), concessions attributed to companies based on government data (where available)

Percentages in parentheses after each layer indicate approximately how much land (in hectares) has been disclosed or not yet disclosed by companies.

 

What are the “Other” sources of oil palm concessions data?

The “other oil palm concessions” layers refer to maps for either 1) concessions certified by the RSPO currently in Brazil, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, or 2) government data on concessions in Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Indonesia and Liberia. These data are provided by Global Forest Watch.

 

What does the transparency bar do?

The transparency bar allows you to see beneath specific overlapping layers by dragging the slider to the left.

 

Why are your primary forest data only for Indonesia?

As provided by Global Forest Watch, primary forest data are currently available only from the Indonesian government. Download the full dataset here. We will provide additional data as they become available.

 

How do the NASA fire alerts work?

Fire hotspots are detected by NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS). This tool enables growers to inform stakeholders of the cause of the fire, as well as adaptive management steps taken to mitigate against any threats and risks. We will provide additional data as it becomes available.

 

How do we know companies are doing what they say they are?

It can be difficult to be sure that the policies and practices companies say they are pursuing are actually being put into practice on the ground. SPOTT also features an interactive mapping tool for a satellite view of oil palm concession sites of companies on the SPOTT scorecard and elsewhere by drawing on data from Global Forest Watch Commodities. The map allows users to identify specific company concessions or mill locations, as well as protected areas, Indonesia’s primary forest cover from 2005, tree cover loss alerts since 2015, and active fires within the past week to 24 hours.

These data may offer important insights into whether companies are implementing their commitments on the ground, as indications of forest loss and fires at high confidence provide opportunities to assess if companies are complying with RSPO criteria.

If companies release their data to the public, it would be much easier to monitor the industry and determine whether companies were violating the rules of the RSPO. However, many companies have yet to disclose their concession maps.

Indonesian companies are often blamed for forest fires in the region, and in 2013 Greenpeace linked half of the fires that occurred in Indonesia to plantations, 39% of those being members of the RSPO. Greenpeace was accused of basing this assessment on incomplete concession maps, but despite growers feeling wrongly blamed, they are still resisting pressure to hand over their maps. Mongabay revealed that many growers fear that making their data publicly available will make them more susceptible to extortion.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) also play a role in monitoring companies against their commitments, and often work to expose companies who are not following the sustainability criteria that they have committed to. Greenpeace recently exposed an RSPO certified Malaysian grower for illegal deforestation, going against their commitments as an RSPO member. This led to the company being dropped by a number of large manufacturers, and will hopefully encourage other growers to ensure they are acting responsibly.

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