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The benefits of sustainable palm oil

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‘Replacing palm oil is no solution, sustainable production is’

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil. It is a high quality, versatile ingredient needed to answer the growing global demand for food. It is efficient in land use and yield and it is a driver for socio-economic development in rural areas. At the same time, the sharp increase in production and use of palm oil is highly contested. It is being associated with deforestation, loss of biodiversity and human rights issues.

The good news is: palm oil can be produced sustainably. Choosing sustainable palm oil will help protect rainforests and safeguard its vulnerable biodiversity and will help create fair socio-economic conditions in the global palm oil supply chain.

Several NGOs together with the leading European palm oil companies and industry associations, united in the Sustainable Palm Oil Choice call upon food manufacturers and retailers to ensure that sustainable palm oil reaches the mass market quickly. Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust, explains: “As someone who has been working as conservationist for over 25 years with a specific focus on protecting orangutans where they are found, I’m convinced that we have to act now.​”

Orangutan Land Trust (OLT), Solidaridad, the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS)  and the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme HUTAN  are working together with the leading players from the palm oil sector in Europe and the sustainable palm oil initiatives from Germany, Italy and Spain to drive the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) by all stakeholders in Europe’s food manufacturing supply chain. The goal is for all manufacturers and retailers to choose and use only CSPO in their production and to achieve the target of 100% CSPO in European food manufacturing by 2020.

Because of palm oil’s negative market image with consumers, food companies move away from palm oil. Frans Claassen, chair of the European Palm Oil Alliance explains why this is not desirable:

“According to a report ​by IUCN International it is clear that switching to other vegetable oils like rapeseed, soy or sunflower may result in more primary forests and other ecosystems being converted into agricultural land, while other fats like shea or coconut are not viable at the needed scale.Since there are no alternatives to palm oil to solve issues like deforestation, sustainable palm oil is the only solution for the issues we face.”

Michelle Desilets adds:

 “The idea that a boycott of palm oil is desirable – is a position we categorically do not share. Palm oil doesn’t have to result in deforestation or biodiversity loss, and by demanding sustainable palm oil, we can help ensure that it doesn’t.”

The Sustainable Palm Oil Choice initiative seeks to increase market acceptance for CSPO by engaging stakeholders who are already committed to speak up for CSPO and inspire others not only to choose and use it, but also to advocate for it. Commenting on the call to action, Frans Claassen, EPOA’s Chair, said:

“We have to empower companies, retailers and consumers to choose sustainable palm oil. I believe we will achieve this by telling the stories about the impact of sustainable production on the ground.”

Making the choice for sustainable palm oil across Europe helps safeguard rainforests and their biodiversity across the world. Choosing palm oil that is produced sustainably also protects smallholders, uplifts their earning potential, and helps create fair and socioeconomic conditions for growers and workers active across the global palm oil supply chain. Companies and organisations wishing to join the Sustainable Palm Oil Choice initiative can do so at sustainablepalmoilchoice.eu.

Related resources from European Palm Oil Alliance