Ahead of next week’s Responsible Business Summit in New York, Dan Strechay of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil explains why his organisation’s new principles and criteria will help consumer goods giants deliver on their zero-deforestation commitments
Although palm oil is found in roughly half of all consumer packaged goods, it has long avoided mainstream attention. But there has been growing public awareness of the industry’s lingering challenges, including deforestation, loss of biodiversity and social conflicts in producing countries.
In recent months, major consumer packaged goods companies, retailers and NGOs have launched campaigns against the palm oil industry, increasing pressure on producers, manufacturers and retailers to better address these issues. Unfortunately, a handful of campaigns have called for a complete palm oil boycott, which could lead to even greater environmental and social problems.
In fact, a recent report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that boycotting palm oil would displace, not halt, biodiversity loss, as it would lead to an increase in the production of other oil crops that require far more land. As it currently stands, oil palms produce roughly 35% of the world’s vegetable oil on less than 10% of the land allocated to oil crops.
Rather than boycotting palm oil, solutions should be focused on improved planning and management of oil palm plantations, working together across sectors to improve the value chain and ensure sustainability commitments are honoured.
As the leading palm oil certification body, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) strives to make sustainable palm oil the norm worldwide, developing and implementing global standards for palm oil production and use. Central to the RSPO’s consensus-driven approach is its principles and criteria (P&C), a set of environmental and social standards that member companies must comply with in order to produce certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).
In late November 2018, the general assembly of the RSPO ratified and voted in a new P&C, following a collaborative, multi-stakeholder review process that was conducted from March 2017 through October 2018. The P&C review, which happens every five years, allows members to openly demonstrate the constant evolution of the standard.
With consumers putting palm oil under the microscope, all stakeholders must ensure they are embracing sustainable production
More than 11,500 individual comments were received from stakeholders during the review, helping to identify key gaps and changes needed to more effectively address challenges in the industry. A few of the most significant changes to the RSPO P&C include criteria aiming to halt deforestation, protect peatlands, promote human and labour rights and empower smallholders.
With consumers putting palm oil use under the microscope, producers, manufacturers, consumer goods companies, and retailers alike must ensure they are embracing sustainable palm oil production and use in line with RSPO’s new principles and criteria. Many RSPO members, including BASF and McDonald’s, for example, have already taken considerable strides toward transforming the palm oil supply chain through their RSPO membership and individual commitments.
BASF, one of the largest global manufacturers of ingredients for personal care products, recently unveiled plans to offer palm-based specialties for the cosmetics industry exclusively as certified sustainable, along with its commitment to source only RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil by 2020. BASF announced it would switch about 330 palm-based products to mass balance globally throughout 2018. RSPO’s mass balance model allows for flexibility in the palm oil supply chain, while contributing to global production of certified sustainable palm oil.
At next week’s Ethical Corporation Responsible Business Summit New York, I will be on a panel with Rachael Sherman, director of global sustainability at McDonald’s, and Katie Anderson, manager of supply chain at Environmental Defense Fund, for a discussion on Removing Deforestation from your Supply Chain. The 75-minute session will explore how companies can take the lead on addressing deforestation and drive change through uncommon partnerships, pulling from key learnings and best practices.
Dan Strechay is interim director of outreach and engagement and US representative for outreach and engagement, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Visit RSPO.org for more information on the P&C 2018 and the RSPO’s journey toward making sustainable palm oil the norm.
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