The World Can Have Sustainable Palm Oil

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. It’s estimated that it is used in about half of all packaged products sold in the supermarket from shampoo to ice cream and detergents. It is the most widely consumed vegetable oil because it’s extremely versatile and cheap to grow! However, it also comes at a cost. Palm oil grows in the same area as tropical rainforests, and the uncontrolled clearing of land for conventional oil palm plantations has led to widespread loss of these irreplaceable forests. Plantations have also been connected to the destruction of habitat of endangered species such as orangutans, rhinos, elephants and tigers as well as the displacement of indigenous peoples who have lost their land and livelihoods. Malaysia and Indonesia are the leading producers, accounting for 86 percent of global production.

Increasing demand from China and India is driving unsustainable cultivation of this product. With the volume of palm oil production projected to increase by more than 65 percent by 2020, balancing industry growth with the constraints of a finite planet is critical.

Yet, palm oil doesn't have to be unsustainable. Growers, traders, manufacturers, retailers, investors and consumers can all contribute to a system where enough palm oil is produced to meet the world’s demands while the environment, animals and local communities are protected. To help this agenda, a new set of guidelines, Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Guidelines, have been published in the U.K. by the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). They were developed by CGF retailer and manufacturer members, with input from standard setting organisations, non-governmental organisations, banks and suppliers. The CGF believes these Guidelines are an important step in helping the consumer goods and retail industries to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, as outlined in its Deforestation Resolution.

The CGF envisages that these Guidelines will assist companies in designing their own policies for sourcing palm oil more sustainably, and will serve as a ‘live’ tool for companies sourcing palm oil as the document will be updated as things change. A key feature of the Guidelines is a two-stage approach that lays out steps to enable companies (from any industry) to start the journey to sustainable palm oil, together with further steps necessary for a fully sustainable palm oil supply.  

Sustainable sourcing commitments from companies make a difference. As consumers, we also have a role to play. Our voice can have an impact on companies, and we can encourage all industries to embrace a more sustainable future for palm oil by pushing them forward with our consumer spending power. 

Photo Credit: Ethical Performance