Seven years on - but still no sustainable palm oil

Posted by jossc — 11 November 2008 at 2:19pm - Comments

Oil palm saplings

Indonesia: oil palm saplings are still replacing peatlands and rainforest

Cooking oil, chocolate, soap, washing powder, cosmetics and biofuels are just a few of the hundreds of products reliant on one key ingredient - palm oil. Demand for this versatile oil is rising rapidly. Today 80 per cent of world production comes from plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Palm oil is the leading cause of destruction in Indonesia, where it is spelling disaster for local communities, biodiversity, and climate change as palm plantations encroach further and further into rainforest and critical peatland areas.

These issues are meant to be addressed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the self-regulating industry body created in 2001 to develop sustainable solutions to palm oil production. To date, despite seven years of existence, no "sustainable" palm oil has entered the market place appearing in products of its members (who include household names like Boots and BP). But that's supposedly now about to change as the first certified palm oil shipment from Malaysia arrives this week in Rotterdam.

Forests for Climate blog

While this could be potentially be something good, as they currently stand the RSPO's standards and criteria are not strong enough to guarantee that any of the palm oil it certifies is actually sustainable. We've documented all the reasons in two detailed reports over the last year; Cooking the Climate and Burning up Borneo.

Greenpeace has repeatedly pointed out to the RSPO that its standards are not being adhered to by palm oil producers - right now there is nothing to stop RSPO members from being involved in socially and environmentally destructive activities in their non-RSPO certified operations.

If the RSPO really wants to be taken seriously on sustainability, then it must take immediate steps to prohibit its members converting any more forest and peat land into plantations. Without such a move there can be no sustainable palm oil production in South East Asia; rather the RSPO will be creating an illusion of sustainability purely to justify the expansion of the palm oil industry, and to increase still further the demand for a product that is a key driver of forest destruction.

NB Our ship Esperanza is currently out in Indonesia touring Indonesia to show how the country's forests are being destroyed by extensive logging and the demand for palm oil, and the impact this is having on climate change.

Get the latest updates from 'Forests for climate' »

Sometimes I feel that what we are doing in Western Kenya is treated as not sustainable. Here at AgriKenya we are only concerned with sustainable production. This has been the case for many years now. Kenya is a net importer of edible oils, with only about one third produced locally. By the way, we do not yet have orang-utans :)

Sometimes I feel that what we are doing in Western Kenya is treated as not sustainable. Here at AgriKenya we are only concerned with sustainable production. This has been the case for many years now. Kenya is a net importer of edible oils, with only about one third produced locally. By the way, we do not yet have orang-utans :)

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

Follow Greenpeace UK