Nestlé is to use satellites to monitor its palm oil supply chains for evidence of deforestation.
The Swiss food and drink giant said last week it would use Starling, a satellite service designed by Airbus and The Forest Trust to detect deforestation, to track all of its global palm oil supply chains.
In 2017, it was found that less than two-thirds of Nestlé’s palm oil supply chains could be proven to be free of deforestation, but the move comes as part of a plan to eliminate it completely by 2020.
The Starling system uses high-resolution radar and optical satellite imagery to monitor land cover changes and disturbances in forest coverage. It then uses analytics to inform companies where they should intervene to stop deforestation.
As well as using the technology for palm oil, Nestlé said it would extend the service to its pulp, paper and soya supply chains “at a later stage”.
“Starling satellite monitoring is a game changer to achieve transparency in our supply chain and we are pleased to extend this collaboration to cover 100% of Nestlé’s global palm oil supply chains by the end of the year,” said Magdi Batato, the company's vice president.
Bastien Sachet, chief executive of The Forest Trust, said when his company started its partnership with Nestlé to fight deforestation in 2010, no tools existed to monitor the issue “and a solution had to be created”.
“Now, we are pleased to say, there is a ready and able tool to help companies rid deforestation from their supply chains,” he said.
“Our eyes in the sky will monitor our palm oil supply chain 24/7, regardless of their certification status. This will enable us to further disclose publicly what we find, where we choose to suspend non-compliant suppliers, and where we choose to engage and improve the situation,” said Benjamin Ware, Nestlé’s head of responsible sourcing.
Earlier this year, Nestlé was suspended from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) for failing to report properly.
RSPO said Nestlé did not submit an Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) report for 2016 and its 2017 ACOP was “without a time-bound plan”.
As a result of the suspension the RSPO said Nestlé could not claim use of certified sustainable palm oil.
Meanwhile, last week more than 40 investors with around $6.4tr worth of assets called on companies sourcing beef to eliminate deforestation from supply chains in a joint statement.
The statement, organised by sustainability organisation Ceres and signed by companies including BNP Paribas, Legal and General, Aegon, HSBC and Aviva, cited the broad range of risks associated with deforestation. It pointed out that beef production was responsible for 65% of tropical deforestation between 2001 and 2009, predominantly in South America.
“Cattle production has been identified as a leading driver of tropical deforestation, primarily through the conversion of forest to pasture and through the cattle industry's demand for soy-based feed products,” it said.
“With a view toward protecting long-term value and mitigating risks, we will seek to engage relevant investee companies on deforestation risk within their supply chains, particularly those with direct or supply chain exposure to cattle and related products.”