Major palm oil companies have reached an agreement to use a single set of principles to implement their “no deforestation” policies.

The companies and NGOs include Asian Agri, Cargill, Forest Peoples Programme, Golden Agri-Resources, Greenpeace, IOI Corporation Berhad, KLK, Musim Mas, Rainforest Action Network, Sime Darby, TFT, Unilever, Union of Concerned Scientists, Wilmar International and WWF.

According to, there have been essentially two competing methodologies to determine what constitutes a ‘high carbon stock’ landscape, with rules for sustainable conversion of land to oil palm plantations.

One, the High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA), was first developed in 2010 by a coalition of businesses and civil society groups. The other, known as HCS+, was put forward last year by a group called the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto (SPOM), which included many of the same companies that had developed the HCSA.

However, on 8 November, the HCS Convergence Working Group announced that it would be releasing a revised HCSA toolkit in early 2017 that represents convergence between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches. The toolkit would be implemented by all the companies signing up to the new agreement.

"Agreeing a single approach to put ‘no deforestation’ into practice is a huge step forward for the palm oil sector and the environment,” said Kiki Taufik, global head of Indonesian forests, Greenpeace. “HCS convergence has not been an easy road but we got there in the end – this is a game changer for the forests and communities where oil palm is expanding in Asia and Africa."

The agreement included the fundamental elements of a methodology to protect high carbon stock (HCS) forests and other high conservation value (HCV) areas such as peatlands, said the HCS

Convergence Working Group. Forest stratification, below-ground carbon, and decision-making in “young regenerating forests” – a class of forest that was at the heart of the disagreement between the HCSA and HCS+ approaches – had all been dealt with in the new methodology.

“The agreement is a significant step in uniting the palm oil industry and all its stakeholders toward a common understanding about how to protect forests and peatlands,” Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor, CEO of IOI Corporation Berhad, said.