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Why there is great urgency for sustainability in palm oil

By Darrel Webber, secretary general of Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

- Last updated on GMT

Why there is great urgency for sustainability in palm oil
Increasing global consumption of palm oil poses serious sustainability challenges and raises questions about leading consumer nations’ responsibility in managing the footprint of its global supply chain. 

European consumers have a high-level of environmental awareness and represent a powerful lever that can be used to transform the market. According to a survey published by the European Commission on July 5, most Europeans would be prepared to change their purchasing habits and buy more environmentally friendly products, yet many feel they lack information and distrust manufacturers' environmental claims. 

In India and China, consumer awareness is also on the rise. Chinese consumers’ purchasing behaviour, for example, is increasingly directly influenced by a company's CSR performance.  According to a recent study by Tsinghua University, 79% of respondents said they would "give priority to purchase products from companies with outstanding CSR performance​", while 69.6% would "recommend others to purchase products of a company with a good CSR performance​".   

It is time for everyone to play a part in placing palm oil high on the agenda while educating end-consumers on the solutions available in sustainable practices for a commodity that is part of their everyday life, due to its versatility and use in many products. 

Oil palms have particularly high yields. They provide 39% of the global vegetable oils’ production while only occupying 7% of oilseeds agricultural lands. Suggesting that palm oil is replaced at a time when demand for vegetable oils is accelerating, due to growth in population and affluence, would risk that more forests are converted into agricultural land​. 

Due to the above, the best solution to address the negative externalities of palm oil cultivation, whenever palm oil is used, is to ensure that products that contain palm oil meet sustainability criteria. This is why RSPO was created​. We want to make sure that sustainability claims are backed-up by a sound third-party certification scheme, to ensure a high-level of compliance through transparency and disclosure to keep industries accountable.

I strongly believe in the importance of an open and informed debate. If we avoid addressing these points openly, the risk is that consumers will be misguided by partial information or, even worse, by misconceptions and they will miss a huge opportunity to lead and steer the change towards a sustainable palm oil market. 

Have your say: Let us know your views on palm oil's place on the sustainability agenda. Leave your comments in the box below.

Related topics: Market Trends, Sustainability, Fats & oils

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