Doing Well By Doing Good
Palm oil cultivation remains a subject of contention for some environmentalists, particularly due to the environmental costs associated with industrial-scale plantations in Southeast Asia. Issues such as deforestation, loss of habitat for indigenous flora and fauna, and conflicts with local communities have been widespread.
Volta Red takes a different approach, embracing a commitment to ‘doing well, by doing good.’ Our plantations are strategically located on land previously cultivated by subsistence farmers for decades. All planting activities are meticulously planned to respect wildlife, watercourses, and adhere to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) New Planting Procedures (NPP).
360 Degree Sustainability
The focus of our sustainability strategy is the implementation of best practices thereby maintaining an appropriate balance between our economic, environmental and social responsibilities. We realise that the full support of the communities surrounding us is vital to our success.
At the core of our business model is supplying the West African market with products produced in Africa, employing African people. In doing so, we provide employment and income to over 400 people, as well as many more indirectly. We also work closely with our network of local outgrowers, sharing best practices in cultivation to improve their yields and income. Our processing mill also provides a ready local market for their fruit, giving a much-needed boost to the farming economy. Our activities are rapidly increasing the palm oil productivity of the Oti Region, providing a cost-effective, organically grown, and locally produced product for local consumption. This will, in time, make a significant shift from the region being a net importer of palm oil to a position of self-sufficiency.
We benchmark our practices against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (“RSPO”) and the United Nations Global Compact (“UNGC”) and engage stakeholders proactively. Given our recent establishment of the company and acquisition of estates, we are not yet a certified member of RSPO, but we respect their standards and are committed to a policy of zero burning of land. We use cover crops to suppress weed growth, and natural by-products from the processing mill are used as fertilizer on the plantations. Additionally, we have adopted an integrated pest management system and established biodiversity plots within our plantations to provide sanctuary for fauna and flora.
We aim to gain full RSPO certification by early 2016 and are working with Proforest (http://www.proforest.net/), who are providing guidance and support to ensure Volta Red complies with RSPO guidelines. Proforest has completed a pre-certification audit, and the company will work with Proforest to ensure all recommendations are addressed to RSPO’s satisfaction.
We have circulated the RSPO Principles and Criteria as an internal document. The management team is working with all staff members to ensure they understand why the company is seeking RSPO certification, what will be achieved by gaining certification, and how this will benefit the workers, outgrowers, and the local environment. See http://www.rspo.org/file/revisedPandC2013.pdf for the RSPO Principles & Criteria.
VoltaRed is committed to engaging with and supporting our local communities, not just through the economic benefits that we bring to the region. We believe in investing in community development and conservation programs, including providing and improving health and educational facilities for local communities. We take great care to engage with local Chiefs, landowners, and the local community to ensure we respect their beliefs and culture.
We are also working with them to improve the lives of their people. As an example, we have constructed eight boreholes in the local villages to provide safe drinking water for the local community. In addition, we have built and maintain, on an ongoing basis, a library for the school in Brewaniaese where we have provided books and computers to help the children develop their skills in reading and math. We also pay for a full-time librarian to assist with the education of local children.