Soy, cocoa and palm oil programs highlighted at Amsterdam Declaration conference

At the Multi Stakeholder Conference of the Amsterdam Group last week, policy-makers, international companies and civil society came together to address the link between the loss of natural forests and European consumption. The international conference focused on approaches for sustainable and deforestation-free supply chains, through discussing examples from palm oil, soy and cocoa initiatives. Several of IDH partners presented our joint work in these sectors.

Ruud Tijssens from FEFAC highlighted the work to mainstream Brazilian responsible soy production and link to European market demand. The program, which is reinforced by an MoU between APROSOJA, ABIOVE, FEDIOL, FEFAC and IDH proactively supports the sustainable agricultural developments at soy farm level in Brazil and move closer to a mainstream market transition of physical responsible soy supply to Europe.

World Cocoa Foundation’s Richard Scobey presented the Cocoa and Forests Initiative. A partnership of the world’s leading cocoa and chocolate companies, in close collaboration with the governments of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to end deforestation and forest degradation in the global cocoa supply chain. The program, which is convened by The Prince of Wales International Sustainability Unit, World Cocoa Foundation and IDH, will present a Joint Framework of Action at the Climate Change Conference of Parties 23 (COP 23) in Bonn in November 2017. This framework will outline how deforestation and forest degradation linked to the cocoa sector can be ended.

On Palm Oil, Eddy Esselink from MVO- The Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry gave the latest updates of our joint European Sustainable Palm Oil (ESPO) project. A program started to drive the uptake of more sustainable palm oil in Europe. Within the ESPO project, sustainable palm oil is being defined as a stepping stone approach, working towards RSPO certified (or equivalent) at minimum. ESPO also aims to connect both ends of the palm oil supply chain, and closely aligns with IDH landscape programs in Indonesia, for example around Verified Sourcing Areas. In December 2015, 11 organizations throughout Europa signed a ‘Commitment to Support 100% Sustainable Palm Oil in Europe by 2020’, since the Norwegian and Spanish industry have signed and committed to using sustainably produced or 100% certified RSPO palm oil in their products.

The Commitment to Support was the catalyst for the Amsterdam Group. During the EU and Global Value Chains’ high-level conference on 7th December 2015, the governments of five key European countries signed the Amsterdam Palm Oil Declaration. This was the first time that Europe spoke with one voice with regards to sustainable palm oil. Since, the Norwegian and Italian government declared governmental support to a fully sustainable palm oil supply chain at European level. This group of seven European countries (Germany, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Great Britain) form the so-called Amsterdam Group. This year, they decided their focus will be on the palm oil, cocoa and soy supply chains.

The conference was a follow up on the last multi-stakeholder conference, organized by the Netherlands in June 2016, which raised awareness on the Declarations, enhanced partner involvement and exchanged experiences among relevant stakeholders from the EU Commission, private sector, NGOs and member states. This year, under the German chairmanship, the Amsterdam Group aimed to facilitate implementation of commitments, further cooperation and exchange on existing and successful approaches.

Daan Wensing, Global Landscape Program Director at IDH, said: “Some ambitious zero-deforestation commitments are on the table, and it is encouraging to see the industry in dialogue with European governments to establish sustainable, deforestation-free supply chains for palm oil, cocoa and soy. We now need to ensure we transform this exchange into defining key political and private sector roles, and taking the necessary actions. Crucial would also be to connect better with the producer countries, although some were present this week, the majority wasn’t.”

The international conference was hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development in Berlin. Representatives from the Amsterdam Declaration Signatory State, other EU-Member States and the EU Commission, producer countries, companies involved in production, trade or processing of palm oil, cocoa and soy, NGOs and monitoring organizations, and finance sector / development banks participated in the discussions.