Some RSPO members are ‘first-class hypocrites’: The scathing personal view of palm oil boss (who also happens to be the organisation’s co-chair)

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Some RSPO members are ‘first-class hypocrites’: The scathing personal view of palm oil boss (who also happens to be the organisation’s co-chair)

Related tags Palm oil

RSPO co-chair and boss of Malaysia’s United Plantations Berhad, Dato’ Carl Bek-Nielsen gave a measured address at the opening of the organisation's RT14 conference in Bangkok.

You can read here​ how he believes the organisation has progressed, why it must appeal to smallholders and how he was critical of RSPO members who defied the “spirit”​ of the organisation by making ‘no palm oli’ claims on their packaging for marketing purposes.

Then, at the subsequent press conference and in a one-on-one interview with FoodNavigator-Asia​, after stressing he was speaking purely as a palm oil grower and not in his RSPO capacity, he let rip. 

Carl Bek-01
Dato' Carl Bek-Nielsen

He said that the majority of the 489 ‘no palm oil’ on-pack claims made by RSPO members were done so by food manufacturers, and accused them of hypocrisy

“Speaking on behalf of the growers, we simply can’t understand how you can be a RSPO member when you go out and say ‘no palm oil’ [on some packaging].

“It’s not just business-class-hypocrisy, its first-class hypocrisy,” ​he said.

“Some of the members are here today, say their product contains no palm oil in [one country], but in [another] they promote it.

“Then other manufacturers in Europe say their product has no palm oil, when they never had any in the first place, they always contained butter.”

RSPO CEO Datuk Darrel Webber tried to strike a more conciliatory tone, saying he understood that some manufacturers wanted to make ‘no palm oil’ claims to allow consumer choice, but stressed they must not link it to being better for the environment of social practices.

Violate spirit

But speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia​ separately, Nielsen it was high time the CEOs of these manufacturers “came back down to earth”.

“Are they trying to portray themselves as more holy than the Pope?”​ he asked.

“When I try to get growers on board to join this platform they ridicule me because we have members who so openly violate the spirit of the RSPO.

“I would urge the CEOs of these companies to come back down to earth and look at the long-term solutions, and stop trying to get a monkey of their back for short term economic gain. This is first class hypocrisy.”

He also said the RSPO could be too bureaucratic and that some members though it could at times be “dare I say, a little bit arrogant”.

“At the RSPO, we need to learn to move with speed and agility. While we want sustainable production, which I agree with, but we can’t neglect the smallholder.

We must not forget that 50% of all palm oil comes from smallholders,”​ he added.

“Someone earning $2 a day is going to have a different sense of sustainability than someone walking around Paris with a pair of Chanel sunglasses.”

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