The Ferrero group has made a key environmental move in committing to using the Starling satellite monitoring and verification service for its palm oil sourcing operations, writes Neill Barston
According to the Italian-founded confectionery company explained, its chosen surveillance system is operated by non-profit organisation Earthworm Foundation and Airbus, and uses a combination of satellite imagery and on-the-ground expertise in order to examine land cover change and forest cover disturbance in near real time.
Palm oil has been widely used across the confectionery sector, including for Ferrero’s core Nutella brand, though the ingredient has come under the microscope in recent years over concerns regarding controls of crop harvesting and potential impacts on regional environments and native wildlife species in core areas of Malaysia and Indonesia, which reportedly accounts for around 90% of market supplies.
Significantly, Ferrero noted that gathering monitoring data will enable it to determine where potential deforestation occurs, and to clearly identify any grievances in its supply chain which can be swiftly acted upon.
As previously reported by Confectionery Production, last year, the business was rated by the WWF wildlife and environment organisation as having the strongest credentials on sustainable palm oil sourcing, from a study of over 170 businesses.
The company first began working with the Earthworm Foundation back in 2013, with the aim of to driving its sustainable palm programme. After achieving 100% traceability to palm oil plantations in 2016, it began verifying that the principles on protecting forests, as outlined in Ferrero’s Palm Oil Charter, were respected by oil palm producers in its supply chain.
In the same year, Ferrero started a Starling pilot project, which focused on selected palm oil plantations within its supply chain in Peninsula Malaysia, Sabah and Indonesia and proved the power of this technology. Ferrero has been building upon the insights from the pilot project to optimise engagement with its suppliers. The aim is to verify compliance and assess transformative actions, while respecting smallholder farmers’ rights to improve their livelihoods.
Ferrero’s Chief Procurement & Hazelnut Company Officer, Marco Gonçalves, believes the use of Starling across Ferrero’s palm oil suppliers will support the company’s commitment to no deforestation.
He said: “Ferrero is fully engaged to secure a deforestation-free and exploitation-free palm oil supply chain, and we are continuously dedicated to finding innovative solutions that are able to support our commitment. Starling offers a state-of-the-art technology which allows us to reliably monitor potential land use change across all our supply chain, enabling us to take action. We continue to commit to sourcing palm oil that is 100% RSPO Segregated (SG) certified and traceable to plantations and are confident that this verification tool will strengthen our efforts to secure a sustainable palm oil supply chain.
His sentiments were shared by Bastien Sachet, Earthworm Foundation CEO, believed Ferrero’s adoption of advanced monitoring of palm oil supplies would have a notable impact upon ongoing efforts to improve environmental performance.
He said: “Ferrero is among the first companies to adopt satellite monitoring across all its palm oil supply chain, accelerating its no deforestation commitment and demonstrating the new standard for the industry in transparency and accountability. However, deforestation is a global challenge, a shared responsibility of all actors in commodity-based supply chains. No single company can tackle deforestation alone. To accelerate the fight against deforestation more businesses must back up their commitments with consistent monitoring, verification and targeted action. Their collective dedication and coordinated action is the key to successful transformation.”
By Neill Barston