What seemed unthinkable for some people two years ago is now happening. Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) is leading the way in what could be the starting point for the palm oil industry to phase out deforestation. And instead of hanging banners at its offices, we are collaborating with the company in what is an unprecedented, serious effort towards what GAR describes as a “no deforestation footprint” for palm oil.

Yes, that’s right. Golden Agri-Resources is the same palm oil company that Nestle had to drop following  our Kit Kat campaign back in 2010. We are collaborating with a leading palm oil company in Indonesia showing serious commitment and willingness to have a zero deforestation footprint.

GAR's collabloration with Greenpeace and The Forest Trust will help protect forests such as the Tesso Nilo National Park.

For over a year now, GAR has been developing a methodology with Greenpeace and The Forest Trust to help differentiate forests from low-carbon degraded forest lands (or ‘ex-forests’) for conservation. We just presented the results in a report published by GAR at a workshop hosted by the Indonesian government in Jakarta, in Indonesia. This report involved rigorous research, extensive fieldwork, consultation with local communities, experts and Indonesia’s government institutions, and countless conference calls, which finally resulted in a tool that will prove extremely useful to conserve Indonesia’s forests, and eventually those across the planet.

And this is where even more dots get connected. Since February 2011 the company committed to eliminate deforestation from all of its operations and move to a zero deforestation footprint. This ties in with Indonesian President Yudhoyono’s committed to reduce emissions by 26%, or 41% with international help, by 2020. Commitments like those from GAR can significantly help the Indonesian government reduce the country’s greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, especially by starting to differentiate between forests areas to be conserved and low-carbon degraded forests that could be developed.

Of course, it will be critical for the government of Indonesia to support GAR’s efforts. The government can help develop a framework to facilitate a carbon stock and forest conservation, review and amend necessary regulations, and insist on similar requirements across all industries operating in forest areas.

In the meantime, GAR’s sister company, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), which is responsible for widespread deforestation to source paper and packaging products, doesn’t seem to realise that GAR’s initiative is the way forward. Even with the revolt going on around the world, their commitments and announcements are not worth the paper they are written on.

While we keep adding pressure on APP until they hear us, we’ll continue to monitor the implementation of GAR’s policy and urge the rest of the industry to follow their lead.

Right now, lets take some time to say ‘great work’. It doesn’t happen every day that such an unconventional partnership bears fruit. GAR’s commitment and their progress so far clearly shows that industry and civil society can work together to implement solutions that safeguard the environment, the livelihoods of communities and continued economic growth.

Join us in pushing industry and the Indonesian government to follow suit and engage in making GAR’s initiative the beginning of the end of deforestation in Indonesia. Surely endangered orangutans and Sumatran tigers in Indonesia would agree with us if they had voice.