SPOTT – Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit – provides assessments of palm oil producers and traders and timber and pulp producers on the public disclosure of their policies, operations and 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 and pulp company ESG transparency assessments

  1. What does a high score mean?
  2. Why does ZSL assess these timber and pulp companies on SPOTT?
  3. How did ZSL select the timber and pulp companies assessed on SPOTT?
  4. How did ZSL select the indicators used in the timber and pulp assessment framework?
  5. How often does ZSL update the assessments?
  6. Why are some of the company scores adjusted?

Palm oil company ESG transparency assessments

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

Interactive map of concessions

  1. What happened to the SPOTT map?

 


Timber and pulp 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, environmental and governance (ESG) 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. Being more transparent is a vital component of ESG best practice.

A high score (i.e. >66%) indicates that the company is being transparent around their operations and their policies and commitments to ESG 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; 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.

For more details, please read SPOTT assessment scores explained.

 

Why does ZSL assess these timber and pulp 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 and pulp.

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 and pulp 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 and Pulp has been developed to promote transparency and accountability amongst these companies in order to support greater industry sustainability.

 

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

To maximise SPOTT’s effectiveness, it was crucial that the timber and pulp 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 and pulp production. We then conducted a qualitative review of the literature, examining a number of issues in more depth, including the size of timber and pulp 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 and pulp 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 and pulp assessment framework?

SPOTT’s indicators focus on the key environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues associated with timber and pulp 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 110 indicators following extensive consultation with various stakeholders including timber and pulp 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 and pulp companies on an annual basis. The first set of 24 assessments were published in November 2017, followed by 50 assessments in July 2018. The next set of assessments are scheduled to take place in July 2019.

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 production
  • do not own pulp 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, environmental and governance (ESG) 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. Being more transparent is a vital component of ESG best practice.

A high score (i.e. >66%) indicates that the company is being transparent around their operations and their policies and commitments to ESG 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; 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.

For more details, please read SPOTT assessment scores explained.

 

Why does ZSL assess these palm oil companies on SPOTT?

SPOTT assessments provide detailed snapshots of corporate transparency on sustainability issues. The current 70 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.

We select companies using a methodology that considers the needs of SPOTT users and identifies companies of the greatest interest and impact given their operations, geographies, and supply chain positions. Specifically, we have selected companies for assessment based on the following factors:

  • Operations in priority countries (i.e. in areas of high biodiversity value threatened by commodity production);
  • Scope and scale of operations (e.g. areas of land owned or leased, revenue generated);
  • Nominations by interested stakeholders, or companies volunteering themselves for assessment.

 

How did ZSL select the indicators used in the palm oil assessment 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 from 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 an annual basis. 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.

 

Why are some of the 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). 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 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 happened to the SPOTT map?

SPOTT previously featured an interactive map of palm oil company concessions developed in collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI), lead partner on Global Forest Watch (GFW).

With the development of GFW Pro, ZSL decided to remove the map from the SPOTT website and dedicate more resources and capacity to expanding the SPOTT assessments. Should you wish to view specific company concessions, please register for a GFW Pro account.”

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