In 2016, Mighty Earth filed a Policy for Association complaint against Olam International alleging involvement in the significant conversion of forests in Gabon including destruction of High Conservation Values for palm oil developments in Gabon.
Instead of proceeding with a formal Policy for Association investigation, FSC, Mighty Earth and Olam entered into an alternative dispute resolution process, enabling the dialogue between the parties, aiming to address the issues raised in the complaint, through constructive dialogue and mediation.
On 31 Jan 2017 Mighty and Olam took part in a mediation, aiming to find an agreement on the recommendations and concerns highlighted by Mighty in its campaign. This mediation process was facilitated by World Resources Institute (WRI). The outcome of this mediation process was an agreement which was signed by both parties. Both parties also published a joint statement communicating about the matter.
On 17 January 2018 Mighty and Olam took part in a second mediation (with similar scope and objectives as the mediation conducted in 2017) again facilitated by WRI. The outcomes of this second mediation process also resulted in an agreement signed by both parties and published as a joint statement.
During the course of these two mediation processes, Mighty visited Gabon twice to visit Olam’s plantations, interact with a wide range of stakeholders, and participate in dialogues on deforestation, High Carbon Stocks, and sustainable agricultures. Olam has maintained a moratorium on any forest or tree cover land clearance since January 2017, and in 2019 extended this for a further three years.
As a subsequent step in this alternative dispute resolution process following the two mediation exercises - and in order to fully address Olam’s adherence to the FSC Policy for Association - FSC is conducting a retrospective assessment of Olam’s oil palm operations in Gabon in relation to the alleged significant forest conversion and destruction of High Conservation Values (HCVs) using a technical expert panel.
Olam’s Oil Palm developments in Gabon began in 2011 under a policy commitment of compliance with the certification requirements of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a full member of the ISEAL Alliance of sustainability standards; Olam contests Mighty Earth’s allegations. To date, Olam has received RSPO certification for four of its Gabon palm estates representing 112,455 ha (planted and conservation areas) and has stated its aim for 100% certified palm by 2021.
Mighty Earth files the complaint against Olam with FSC
First mediation between Mighty Earth and Olam (mediated by the World Resources Institute) resulting in a joint agreement between the parties and a set of agreed actions to be implemented by the parties.
As a result of this mediation Olam agreed to 1) Suspend further land clearing of forest in Gabon for palm and rubber plantations for a year; 2) Continue to implement its time-bound plans to map and disclose more information about its third-party palm oil supply chains in Asia and require its third party suppliers to adhere to the High Carbon Stock Approach; 3) Publish its procedures to address supply chain risks, including independent verification of compliance of high-risk sources; 4) Issue a revised grievance procedure that includes Olam’s third-party palm oil suppliers; 5) Supplement its current sustainability policies with explicit references to protecting peat and ensuring no exploitation of workers or local communities.
As a result of the mediation Mighty agreed to 1) Suspend its current campaign targeting Olam’s oil palm and rubber operations for a year, including its complaint to FSC (a period that could be extended); 2) Work with the Gabonese government, civil society, and international experts and stakeholders to advance conservation and responsible development.
Olam and Mighty jointly agreed to participate in stakeholder events with civil society organisations and government in Gabon, to encourage and support the High Carbon Stock Approach working group to develop clear guidelines for responsible development in highly forested landscapes, and to further explore conservation and restoration initiatives. Olam subsequently invited Mighty to visit Gabon twice in 2017 under its commitment to support multi-stakeholder dialogues.
Second mediation between Mighty Earth and Olam (mediated by the World Resources Institute) resulting in a joint agreement between the parties and a set of agreed actions to be implemented by the parties.
For palm products sourcing, both parties agreed to support broader industry moves to improve compliance of suppliers with no-deforestation commitments, and Olam agreed to continue its drive towards greater transparency, engagement and verification with its own suppliers. Mighty Earth and Olam agreed to continue to engage on areas of mutual interest and resolve issues through a process of dialogue.
FSC, Mighty Earth and Olam jointly agreed on an alternative dispute resolution process to be followed to address the remaining issues, which had not been addressed through the mediation exercises.
FSC commissions SmartCert Group to provide a retrospective assessment of alleged conversion of HCV forests and destruction of High Conservation Values caused by Olam’s development of palm operations in Gabon.