Wilmar has a zero-tolerance policy towards the use of fire in land preparation or development strictly to a policy of zero burning. We take an active role in mitigating the occurrence of forest burning and haze, through the implementation of our No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation policy (“Policy”) that applies to our entire supply chain, including our third-party suppliers, as well as community education campaigns and multi-stakeholder collaborations to entrench sustainable practices throughout the industry.
All our suppliers have been notified that any deliberate breach of our No Burn policy will result in an immediate termination of business relations. Should fire occur in our suppliers’ concessions, we will engage with them and investigate the root causes of the fires. For suppliers whose licences have been suspended or revoked by the Indonesian government, we will immediately halt purchases from them until investigations are concluded, and only resume business relations with them should their licenses be reinstated.
We only use mechanical methods in our land development. During land clearing, the wood debris is left to decompose thus releasing nutrients more slowly. These nutrients can be utilised by the new trees. This reduces inorganic fertilisers at the time of planting, which also reduces the costs of planting.
While we are committed to No-Burn practice, we cannot prevent local practices of slash-and-burn for agricultural and other purposes. This may lead to high incidences of uncontrolled fires which inevitably spread over to our plantations. To minimise the impact of fire and haze in our operations and surrounding environment, we have a fire management and rapid response programme that is based on principles of prevention and suppression.
Active Fire Monitoring and Rapid Response
Wilmar has a 24/7 fire monitoring system in place to alert us of fires in and around our concessions, and a well-established fire prevention and suppression programme to minimise the incidence and impact of fire and haze.
Remote sensing technologies also play an important role in monitoring practices and identifying fire hotspots. We monitor hotspots in and around our oil palm concessions using Satellite data from LAPAN and NASA. In the spirit of transparency, we have provided our concession maps to the World Resources Institute, for inclusion in their Global Forest Watch (GFW) platform. GFW uses satellite imagery and data analytics to identify fires to the precision of one square kilometre. Any fire incidences detected in and around our concessions are dealt with expeditiously.
Our concessions are equipped with fire-fighting infrastructure and equipment, and staffed with an on-site fire brigade. On-the-ground personnel are also trained to be vigilant and prepared to respond to fire incidences quickly and decisively.
Despite our best efforts, fires do occasionally occur in our concessions, particularly during the dry season. Most of these fires originate from (i) enclaves within our concessions that are set-aside and controlled by small-scale farmers and local communities who continue to practise slash-and-burn, and (ii) outside our concession areas, and have been propelled into our concessions by topography and wind. We keep detailed documentations of each fire incident, which include the location and size of the affected area, action taken, cause and duration of the fire, as well as photographs. Police reports are filed for all fire incidences, as forest burning is illegal in Indonesia. Fire incidences will also be published in our sustainability report.
Our monitoring system is currently operational mostly in Indonesia as fire incidences are more prevalent. This is demonstrated as the number of fire cases in our Malaysia operations has been consistently zero for the past two years.
While we are committed to No Burning, we recognise that slash-and-burn practices remain rampant among small-scale farmers and local communities. This often leads to uncontrolled fires that may inevitably spread to our plantations or those of our suppliers. Wilmar partners with community leaders and local governments to routinely conduct awareness campaigns at the grassroots level. Communities also undergo basic fire management training and are provided with fire-fighting equipment.