"Progress on Green Palm Oil, But Urgent Action Still Required: WWF"

Nov. 22, 2011; Eco-Business.com: By Jenny Marusiak. "Major retailers and manufacturers need to take urgent action to ensure they only buy palm oil that is certified to be green or sustainable, according to a report released on Tuesday by non-governmental organisation WWF International.

The NGO’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard for 2011 found that while many companies with commitments to purchasing sustainable palm oil have made progress since the last assessment in 2009, a significant number will fall short of their targets if they do not pick up the pace.

'There are options available for almost any company to buy certified sustainable palm oil. Yet the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard shows that only half of the palm oil used by the companies we assessed is sustainable,' said WWF policy officer Adam Harrison in a statement.

Palm oil, produced primarily in the tropical regions of Asia and Africa, is widely used as a vegetable oil and in making packaged foods and healthcare products.

Palm Oil Growers

Palm oil growers need assurance companies will buy certified sustainable palm oil

WWF found that on average 53 per cent of palm oil used by companies from the retail sector was certified sustainable. Retailers Walmart, Marks & Spencer and Dutch firm Royal Ahold were among those that achieved the highest score of ‘9’. Denmark’s Dansk Supermarked and Germany’s Aldi Nord, with a score of ‘0’, were some of the lowest-scoring retail companies.

WWF urged even the high-scoring retailers to extend their sustainable palm oil policies beyond their own products to every consumer product available on their shelves.

An average of 42 per cent of the palm oil consumed by manufacturing companies was certified sustainable. Manufacturing companies with a top rating included France’s L’Oreal, Germany’s Henkel and the United Kingdom’s Cadbury. Coming in last with scores of ‘0’ were Finland’s Lännen Tehtaat and Denmark’s DLG.

Mr Harrison, who is also WWF’s representative on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) executive board, added that it was clear that some manufacturers and retailers have 'fallen behind on their commitments to 100 per cent sustainable palm oil, while others haven’t even started at all.'

The RSPO is an industry-led association with the world’s most widely recognised certification standard for sustainable palm oil. Palm oil buyers who join RSPO are required to set a deadline for purchasing only certified sustainable palm oil.

Of the 132 companies assessed in the report, 103 are RSPO members and nine have applied for membership. Of all the companies assessed, 87, or about 66 per cent, have committed to using only RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier - an encouraging sign that could spur further development for the certified sustainable palm oil industry, said WWF.

The WWF report was released at the 9th Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, along with recommendations from WWF that include companies setting interim goals for their palm oil purchasing to ensure that they meet their targets.

The report noted that a broad range of companies, regardless of their size, were able to purchase high levels of certified palm oil - 75 per cent or more - for their needs.

Its authors wrote that companies have no excuses to delay increasing their sustainable palm oil purchasing given the successful case studies, available supplies of certified palm oil and options for substituting where no certified palm oil supplies are available.

Annual global production of palm oil is estimated at 50 million tonnes, and about 10 per cent of that is certified sustainable, according to RSPO.

WWF noted that only half of the available certified palm oil is purchased, and that the lack of buyers is discouraging palm oil growers from certifying more plantations.

The authors also noted that information for the assessment, which was meant to provide a gauge that growers could use to predict the future market for certified palm oil, was difficult to obtain.

'WWF wants far more openness in this industry. Unless there is greater transparency, oil palm growers will remain unwilling to commit to certification,' said Mr Harrison.

According to WWF, oil palm plantations have caused nearly a third of the deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia in the last 10 years.

But palm oil itself is not the problem, noted the authors of the report, who wrote that the crop yields more oil per hectare than any other and also plays a key role in supporting forest communities.

A study released Monday by international NGO the Forest Peoples Programme supports this statement. The study, produced jointly by the Forest Peoples Programme and Indonesian NGOs SawitWatch, Samdhana Institute and RECOFTC - The Center for People and Forests, compared the palm oil industries in Malaysia, Indonesian and Papua New Guinea with other growing areas such as West Africa and newer plantations in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

RECOFTC programme coordinator James Bampton said in a statement that responsible domestic policies were crucial to sustainable palm oil industries that benefit local communities. 'This study shows that where the circumstances are favourable, as in Thailand where lowland farmers have relatively secure rights, they themselves are choosing to plant oil palm as a lucrative crop.'

Responsible conflict resolution and engagement with local communities is a core part of RSPO commitments.

WWF noted in its report that the 92 oil palm growers that are part of the RSPO have committed to the sustainable management of their plantations and say they will produce up to 15 million tonnes of certified palm oil by 2020, which is enough to supply European buyers and more.

Palm oil buyers will be expected to take up that supply.

'All companies, even some of the top performers, need to move faster. Only then can we ensure that the momentum gained by the RSPO is not lost and avoid the negative impacts of irresponsible oil palm plantations on forests, wildlife and communities,' said Mr Harrison.

Additional recommendations from WWF

    Companies should:
  1. Join the RSPO as an active member
  2. Make a commitment to source 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015 at the very latest
  3. Be transparent on their use of palm oil
  4. Start using certified sustainable palm oil immediately
  5. Start investing in traceable supply chains of certified sustainable palm oil
  6. For retailers, go beyond 'own brand commitments'
  7. Raise awareness of the RSPO and certified sustainable palm oil globally
    Consumers can:
  1. Do your shopping from companies that have committed to certified sustainable palm oil (access mobile application at http://bit.ly/tvMstr)
  2. Look for the RSPO trademark on products
  3. Ask your retailer to source certified sustainable palm oil products for everything they sell - not just their own brands
  4. Ask the manufacturers of the products you use to source certified sustainable palm oil
  5. Contact WWF to find out about other ways you can get involved

External Reference/Copyright
Issue date: Nov. 22, 2011
Author: Jenny Marusiak
Publisher-Link: http://www.eco-business.com external_link
Reference-Link: Progress on Green Palm Oil, But Urgent Action Still Required: WWF external_link

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