What is sustainable palm oil?

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The Sustainable Palm Oil Choice

In order to increase market acceptance for sustainable pam oil, a group of NGOs and companies created The Sustainable Palm Oil Choice (SPOC). SPOC is a movement for 100% certified sustainable palm oil in Europe. Companies, NGO’s and governmental organizations share their commitments, best practices, successes, struggles and future plans, showing the impact sustainable palm oil has on the ground. More than 20 participants already joined.

To the SPOC website

Palm oil is the most consumed edible oil in the world. The increasing popularity of this oil is due to its unique characteristics. First, palm oil crops require less land use than other oils. In addition, this vegetable oil is extremely versatile and can be, therefore, used for a great variety of products. This makes palm oil a very attractive ingredient, even more with the current challenges in regards to the increasing demand for global food. The growing production of palm oil is, however, highly contested. Its production is often associated with negative effects on the environment. Concerns for the association between deforestation and biodiversity loss on the hand, and the production of agricultural crops, such as palm oil, on the other, presents a number of questions in regards to its production: is there an alternative to palm oil?

Can palm oil be produced sustainably?

Different studies of NGOs claim that there is no better alternative to this crop. Boycotting palm oil will namely mean producing alternatives that require even more land use, and would, therefore, present even more sustainability problems. What is then the way forward? The answer is: producing palm oil in a sustainable way. Palm oil can be sustainable. But what does this exactly means? Producing sustainably means cultivating this crop in line with social and environmental standards established by voluntary, and in some cases, mandatory schemes. Many of these schemes are the result of closing cooperation between NGOs, businesses, smallholders and governments. Here you can find a number of voluntary and mandatory sustainability standards that apply to palm oil.

Deforestation and palm oil

All EPOA members commit to supply certified sustainable palm oil (RSPO or equivalent) in Europe and support a fully traceable supply chain based on ‘No Deforestation, No Peatland and No Exploitation’ policies.

Read more on deforestation

International Sustainability Standard (ISCC)

ISCC was developed through an open multi-stakeholder process in 2006, involving representatives from agriculture, processing and refining industry, trade as well as ecologically and socially active non-governmental organisations. Today, it is one of the world’s leading certification systems.
ISCC applies strict rules for the conservation of valuable landscapes as well as environmentally friendly and socially responsible production of agricultural and forestry raw materials. ISCC is applicable for various sectors and end-markets, including food, feed, bio-based markets and energy. ISCC is well established in the palm oil sector.

Currently (June 2017), 353 palm-processing companies are ISCC certified. More than 22 million tons of palm fresh fruit bunches were produced in compliance with ISCC in 2016. The ISCC-factsheet is available here.

ISCC website

Rainforest Alliance

The Rainforest Alliance, established in 1987, aims to change land-use and business practices to reduce their impacts on both biodiversity and local people. In order to become certified, farms must meet criteria set by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), a coalition of leading conservation groups that work to promote sustainability agriculture.

The SAN standard encompasses all three pillars of sustainability – social, economic, and environmental, and is built on four important principles of sustainable farming: Biodiversity conservation, Improved livelihoods and human wellbeing, Natural resource conservation, and Effective planning and farm management systems.

For more information on the Sustainable Agriculture Network’s standard and how Rainforest Alliance certification works, see their business website.

Rainforest Alliance website

Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO)

The Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) Foundation is a national non-profit organization aiming to improve the sustainability and competitiveness of the Indonesian palm oil industry and contribute to the Indonesian government’s objectives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and draw attention to environmental issues. The ISPO standard is mandatory for palm oil producers in Indonesia.

palm oil and fruit small

Orangutans and palm oil

Hunting, wildlife trade and human-wildlife conflict are the main drivers of orang-utan loss. The harvesting of palm oil and pulp is also a major driver, but just one of several causes. Unlike conventional palm oil, sustainable palm oil is produced while doing everything possible to protect the orangutan, by not destroying more of its habitat, or using fire to clear more rainforest.

More on orangutans and palm oil

Traceability explained

Traceability is a tool to help companies along the palm oil supply chain to identify the origin of the oil sourced. Knowing the potential mills and their locations make it possible to identify and monitor if sustainable practices are adopted at origination.

Traceability & Transparency
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