Robeco: Satellite Data to Detect Deforestation in Palm Oil Plantations

Robeco uses satellite data to check whether forests in Malaysia and Indonesia are being deforested with the aim of making room for new palm oil trees. For this purpose, high-resolution images from orbit will be used in order to carry out a continuous before and after comparison of the forests in these regions.

For Robeco, addressing sustainability issues in the palm oil industry is an important aspect of its commitment to sustainability in the context of the SRI investments in 2019. With a combination of enhanced collaboration and a screening system, producers will be targeted directly. An important benchmark is the amount of land certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which Robeco joined in January 2019.

Robeco uses satellite data as part of its ‘Commitment Programme’ to assess the extent to which certified palm oil companies are abiding by their policy not to deforest forests. Because this way deforestation is hard to hide. Robeco’s goal is to promote the development of a sustainable palm oil industry. This will include discussions with companies on how they can run their palm oil business without deforestation.

Palm oil is used worldwide for many consumer products such as chocolate or shampoo. The cultivation of palm oil is highly profitable. This has led many plantation owners to promote unsustainable land development. Apart from that, the sector contributes to high CO2 levels and is known for its poor working conditions.