As a responsible investor, Robeco has been engaging with palm oil producers, traders and buyers on sustainability-related issues since 2010. Palm oil is a vital commodity that is an essential ingredient in many consumer goods, from chocolates to shampoo. As the most land-efficient and versatile vegetable oil, its cultivation as a cash crop is highly profitable.
However, the industry continues to face significant problems related to deforestation, its large carbon footprint, and labor standards in emerging markets. Robeco’s new approach to try to address these problems is a combination of enhanced engagement and sustainability investing methodology.
With enhanced engagement, we formulate minimum standards that companies need to meet after three years of engagement to ensure eligibility in our investment universe. For the methodology, Robeco now conducts a sector screen that benchmarks companies according to the amount of land that has been certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a not-for-profit group that Robeco joined in January.
A full update outlining the reasoning, methods, opportunities and challenges for investors in this arena are explained in our new positioning paper, ‘Our approach to sustainable investing in palm oil’.