Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil, and can be found in everything from snacks to household products and even cosmetics. About 58.84 million tons of palm oil are produced every year, with Indonesia and Malaysia accounting for 85 percent of total global supply, producing 72.27 million metric tons in marketing year 2019/2020 according to statista.
What’s the Downside
- Companies carelessly clear out forests in Indonesia and Malaysia (WWF)
- Forests and peatland are being burned for cultivation (WWF)
- Conflicts regarding employment conditions of plantation workers and smallholders (WWF)
Palm oil is a very efficient commodity and it helps rural poverty alleviation and rural development in many regions and even the most committed environmentalists agree that boycotting palm oil is not the answer. Basically, palm oil is way more cheaper and efficient than any other vegetable oil. Thus, sustainable palm oil is the only way out for now.
Sustainable Palm Oil
In brief, sustainable palm oil is a product made under policies that promise no deforestation, no peat development, and no exploitation (NDPE). The easiest way to tell is to look for recognized sustainability certification such as that of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which is based on eight principles:
- Commitment to transparency
- Compliance with applicable laws and regulations
- Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
- Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
- Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
- Responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills
- Responsible development of new plantings
- Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity
What to do?
- For Companies
- Strictly enforce the NDPE program
- Stop clearing land by burning
- Require sustainable certification for all its related parties
- Promote sustainable programs to their market
- For Government
- Create an environment where illegal and irresponsible palm oil production and consumption are no longer tolerated.
- Develop strict regulations to punish companies which violate the terms
- Support sustainable programs in their areas
- For Consumers
- Look for products that have a sustainable certification
- Research which brands support sustainable programs
- Refer to WWF’s Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard as a reference when buying a product