Palm oil is used in cosmetics and personal care products as well as many food items including margarines, biscuits and bakery products. According to the RSPO, it is estimated that about half of the packaged products in supermarkets contain palm oil.
Segregated or Mass Balance System
The new RSPO trademark, which retailers and manufacturers can apply for early 2011, is designed for certified products that either use the RSPO’s segregated system, where only certified sustainable palm oil is present in the product, or the mass balance system, where mixed sources of oil are used but the mass of palm oil in the product corresponds to the production of sustainable palm oil.
The only RSPO scheme not to be covered by the trademark is the book and claim system, member of the RSPO executive board Belinda Howell explained to CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.
RSPO's book and claim system is where companies buy certificates that correspond to the amount of sustainable palm oil produced, and this has its own logo, she said.
According to RSPO president Jan Kees Vis, the trademark will reassure consumers of the contribution certain products have made to the sustainable cultivation of palm oil.
“RSPO certification and this trademark mean that palm cultivation does not contribute to the sustained destruction of valuable tropical forests or damage the interests of people in the regions where the palms are grown,” he said.
As it stands companies taking part in the RSPO schemes can make claims on their products, but Howell explained that a logo can more easily fit the information onto a small package.
"We would hope that with time the consumer will learn to recognise it, but being realistic there are a lot of logos out there, and if there is space companies can accompany the logo with a website that will provide more information," she said.
By making participation into the RSPO scheme more visible to the consumer, the organisation is hoping manufacturers will be more motivated to get involved.
Drive use of sustainable palm oil
In addition, the RSPO hopes the scheme will push more companies to use only certified sustainable palm oil in their products.
A number of consumer goods companies and retailers have made promises regarding their use of sustainable palm oil, including Unilever which has pledged to use only sustainable palm oil by 2015.
Howell, who represents 12 retailers on the executive board, explained the premise: "The idea is that retailers will not want products that have been certified sustainable sitting next to non-certified products on the shelf to be compared, so they will have to go across to one hundred percent sustainable."
"This approach is preferable to trying to phase out palm oil use," she said.
According to the RSPO, both the supply and the demand for sustainable palm oil are increasing rapidly. More than a million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil have been since 2008, according to the organisation, and more than 60 per cent of the sustainable oil produced in 2010 has been used as such.