• Lydia Ferrari Kehoe

Sustainable Palm Oils: Are they the solution?

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oils (RSPO) was established in 2004 to promote the use and production of sustainable palm oils. The definition for this they give is “oil that is produced without deforestation and abusing human and labour rights.” A list of seven ‘principles and criteria’ were created that producers must follow in order to be able to advertise their sustainable use of the product, as well as decreasing the harmful environmental effects caused by its farming.

The rules are as follows:

1. Behave ethically and transparently

2. Operate legally and respect rights

3. Optimise productivity, efficiency, positive impacts and resilience

4. Respect community and human rights and deliver benefits

5. Support smallholder inclusion

6. Respect workers’ rights and conditions

7. Protect, conserve and enhance ecosystems and the environment

Niels Van Velde, who is part of the RSPO European communications team, said “These rules are there to protect the planet, people and prosperity. All parts of the supply chain are checked by the RSPO – from the grower, to the mill that presses out the palm oil, to the transporter and oil refiner, and lastly the company that uses the palm oil to make the product you buy in the supermarket.”

When asked if sustainable palm oils are changing the environmental implications that non-sustainable production has, Van Velde said “The RSPO’s vision is to transform markets so that all palm oil used will be sustainable. That is why it’s important all growers join our certification scheme. If companies are demanding that the palm oil they use is grown sustainably, growers will need to meet these demands. These processes take time, but we keep improving our standard towards a 100% sustainable palm oil market.”

The RSPO have more than “4000 members worldwide, accounting for 3.84 million hectares of certified palm oil plantations.” The certification process is certainly a very detailed one, however concerns have been raised as to whether it is as effective as it aims to be. A representative from the EU Transport and Environment Federation told Clic News that, “The RSPO is a very good initiative, but it’s very difficult to enforce this. There are many loop holes and ways for you to cheat the system.”

This initiative is however a very positive one, and has seen many improvements in one of the world’s most highly sought after production sectors. The RSPO have this advice for customers; “We have a trademark, a sustainability logo you can find on the products in your supermarket. It is important that more consumers become aware that there is an option to buy sustainable palm oil products. Together we can demand from companies that they only use certified sustainable palm oil.”

RSPO certified logo, photo credit: rspo.org

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