Palm Oil, is it Destroy the Rain Forests

Posted on 28th February 2011 in environment

Making a statement about palm oil has become something of a business necessity. If major brands are not buying certificates to offset their use, they’re announcing plans to buy certified sustainable palm oil. Others are ordering supplies from sustainable plantations in countries that are not large-scale producers of palm oil.

That’s because the palm oil industry in Malaysian and Indonesia is accused of destroying precious rain forest and the homes of endangered orang-utans, and of emitting high levels of greenhouse gases. That’s why major businesses are responding to consumer demand from consumers that they stop supporting such practices.

It’s a laudable stance and it makes a cute Tweet. But if anyone tries to tell you stopping, reducing or cleaning up Europe’s supply of palm oil will solve the problem, they are misleading you. The issues in Malaysia and Indonesia will still continue.

Firstly, neither of those countries can afford to lose palm oil as an industry – more than a million people in Malaysia and Indonesia depend on palm oil for an income. And about 40 to 45% of plantations in those countries are smallholdings, not large corporations whose oil is shipped abroad.

The second point is that if Europe stops buying palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, that shortfall will go unnoticed among the huge amount consumed by India, China and other major markets.

Thirdly, switching away from palm produced in Malaysia and Indonesia will remove producers’ incentive to work sustainably. Why invest in certification, audits and changes in production methods if the market is not interested in paying for it?

Fourthly, it’s not palm oil that’s the problem. It’s the production methods that need to be tackled. Palm oil has become popular because it’s the fastest-growing and highest-yielding oil crop on the planet, needing ten times less land than any other. In a world where rapid population growth demands a food supply, swapping palm oil for one that needs more land to grow would bring even greater problems, on a bigger scale.

Basically, it’s not all about you. The palm oil problem is not about image, headlines or neat posts on Twitter. It doesn’t mean giving up chocolate that contains palm oil in order to rescue the orang-utan. It means dealing with the issues that exist now and will go on existing unless we all play a part in making all palm oil production sustainable and responsible.

You won’t help the rain forests with a boycott – you’ll just wash your hands of the problem.

Thoughts on Palm oil as a Sustainable Fuel

Posted on 21st February 2011 in environment, rainforest

Last week the WWF introduced their ‘Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard Initiative’ which will ‘show businesses that support sustainable palm oil and those that have not fulfilled commitments to buy it’. This is the earliest part of a prolonged campaign which is designed to support palm oil users to buy RSPO certified sustainable palm oil.

In addition palm oil customers here in the UK are being asked for their policies on palm oil by journalists writing for trade periodicals in addition to national newspapers. Several articles have already been published and several more are scheduled. The pressure is therefore growing for palm oil users to determine what they are going to do to assist the sustainable production of palm oil.

Depending on what you manufacture, use or sell, there are a number of ways in which you can support sustainable development. If you make products comprising refined palm oil there is, based on how you currently receive your oil, a certified sustainable palm option (CSPO) available to you right away, including GreenPalm. Get in contact with your supplier for further information.

If you manufacture or utilize products which contain either palm kernel oil or a palm oil derivative or blends, for instance in frying oils, margarines, emulsifiers, cakes, suet mixes, gravy granules and some pastry baked products, physical supply chain intricacies mean that CSPO might not yet be available to you. If it is not then GreenPalm may well be the only sensible, reasonably priced option for your business at this time.

The critical factor to comprehend is that purchasing palm oil from a member of the RSPO would not mean that you are previously purchasing CSPO. Additionally, now that RSPO approved sustainable options are accessible, you need to do more to prove your business’ responsibility to the environment.

Certificate trading is building on the GreenPalm trading platform. There has not been a better time therefore to commit to GreenPalm.

Sustainable Palm Oil, cleaning up our homes and cosmetics

Posted on 1st February 2011 in environment

GreenPalm is quickly asking the household & personal care market to assist the sustainable production of palm kernel oil, a key component in cosmetics and home care products.

GreenPalm, a certificate dealing programme formed to aid and promote production techniques agreed to by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), states the environmental and social issues in major palm production places such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia demand an immediate and worldwide reply.

Bob Norman, the general manager of GreenPalm, said: “It’s in your lipstick, your hand cream, your shaving gel and the stuff you use to wash your clothes and it could be destroying rain forests, removing apes’ habitats and driving forest communities from their homes.”

He added: “Most people now know about the issues linked to palm oil, an ingredient used in many foods, from biscuits and cakes to sauces and ready meals. So far, though, we’ve heard less about the use of palm kernel oil derived from the center of the palm fruit in home care, personal care and cosmetic products.

“Many high-profile manufacturers have made a public promise to start using only certified sustainable palm kernel oil from 2015, but it’s looking increasingly likely that this won’t be possible for many of them. Large volumes of RSPO-certified palm kernel oil are not available, and consistency of supply would present a major headache, especially for those businesses using hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material each year.

“However, a separate issue is the pressing need to change the palm oil industry immediately the rain forest cannot wait several years for everyone’s CSR plans to be set in motion. Urgent action is needed now, by making sustainable palm kernel production not just commercially viable but also appealing.

“GreenPalm works by paying a premium direct to the producers who are certified by the RSPO as using responsible, ethical and sustainable methods. The end user does not receive segregated sustainable palm oil, but it has directly funded an equivalent amount from an RSPO-certified producer.

“This is about doing the right thing, rather than putting a badge on some packaging and feeling good. When 2015 arrives, where will the segregated supplies come from? There won’t be enough unless palm kernel oil producers are given an incentive and a commercial reason to start producing sustainably now. This way, the industry can change as a whole, whether a producer exports their palm kernel oil to a European corporation with a strong CSR focus, or just sells it locally.”

Palm kernel oil is a key ingredient used in about 70% of cosmetics and home and personal care goods, from lipstick and body butter to soap and kitchen cleaning fluid. It is the only vegetable fat with a solid consistency at non-tropical room temperature, and has become widely used as a low-cost, versatile and plant-based substitute to animal fats.

However, its popularity has pushed a quickly expanding industry that has been linked with deforestation, high carbon discharges, dislocation of local residential areas and dangers to endangered species such as the orang-utan, Sumatran tiger and sunbear.

The RSPO was created as a group of palm producers, growers, refiners and commercial users, to approve a set of rules and criteria, both environmental and humanitarian, that must be met for a producer’s yield to be certified sustainable.

GreenPalm is the only certificate-trading programme accredited by the RSPO. An RSPO-certified producer can earn one GreenPalm certificate for each tonne of palm oil or palm kernel oil produced. The certificates are then made available for sale online and businesses that produce or sell products comprising palm oil or palm kernel oil can then bid for and buy them to off-set the palm products they have acquired in the standard way.

The price of the certificate goes to the producer, as a premium.

In two years, one million certificates were traded using the GreenPalm programme, earning over $9m in premiums for producers working within the regulations of the RSPO. Support has come from international names including Unilever, Cargill, Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Cadbury, Danisco, Lidl, Burton’s Foods, Seventh Generation, Findus, New Britain Palm Oil, Asda, Boots, Tesco and Waitrose, among many others. The GreenPalm system also enables small-scale businesses, with less control over and financial power to change international supply chains, to support sustainable palm oil production.

Marks & Spencer famously promised to off-set its entire use of palm oil with GreenPalm certificates, until a entirely segregated and certified supply of sustainable palm oil became available. Unilever is GreenPalm’s biggest buyer, securing certificates for its use in brands created throughout Europe.

Palm kernel expeller (PKE), the meal that remains when oil is extracted from the kernel, is also now covered by GreenPalm certificates. PKE’s high fibre content makes it a valuable protein-based feed for animals, and it is used by some super-dairies to feed cattle. By buying GreenPalm PKE certificates, those businesses can now assist sustainable palm production.