Category Archives: Palm Oil Sustainability

European Commission approves sustainable palm oil scheme

Last week news was published that the European Commission has approved a scheme from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil which will allow palm oil producers licensed by the RSPO to qualify for subsidies.

This decision has been met with controversy from a range of individuals including Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. Robbie said “Palm oil is driving deforestation, wildlife loss, community conflicts, and accelerating climate change. Instead of greenwashing palm oil, the EU should outright ban its use as a biofuel.”

What do you all think of the European Commission’s decision? Personally we think it’s a great step forward to acknowledge the potential of sustainably produced palm oil. Although many forms of palm oil production can be incredibly damaging to the environment, we feel that sustainable palm oil production is solution. There is such a vast range of palm oil products on the market now that production of the oil is incredibly important. Not only that but many countries economies are so dependent on the commodity.

Pushing sustainable palm oil forward is essential if we want to continue producing the oil. Let us know in the comments below what you think about the announcement. Do you feel that it’s a wrong move? Do you think the correct solution lies elsewhere? We want to hear your feedback!

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Prospects and Challenges of Sustainable Palm Oil for China

The RSPO put up an interesting case study recently into the prospects and challenges of sustainable palm oil for China. Although we’ve been quiet here on the ‘What is Palm Oil’ blog for the past couple of months, we’re back to discuss this interesting topic.

The Chinese Government actually has a strategy in place to develop a ‘Harmonious Society’ by 2020 – this will be focused on human progress, social civilization and sustainable development. As China are one of the world’s top importers of palm oil they could potentially be very influential when it comes to sustainable development.

The RSPO have outlined principles and criteria for sustainability into a certification system. This certification system is then being rolled-out throughout the world. Europe has currently shown the largest uptake and interest from both producers and from the demand side interestingly enough.

Palm oil is not only the most widely traded vegetable oil in the world, but has also recently become the first greatest import variety of vegetable oil for China. In the past 2 years China’s average volume of palm oil imported has hit over 6 million tons! This large increase in imports means that China will have a significant influence over palm oil producers.

RSPO’s study goes into multiple different policy options for the promotion of sustainable palm oil in China. However we feel the most important one is the establishment of a national policy objective for sustainable palm oil. This would be a national policy set by the Chinese Government stating that China should only import and use any palm oil which has been produced in a sustainable manner. These sustainable palm oil production methods will obviously have to meet the internationally recognised standards mentioned above. This policy would put huge pressure on the producers to only produce the palm oil sustainably, therefore increasing the amount of sustainably produced palm oil worldwide.

What kind of policy changes do you think China should adopt to promote sustainable palm oil? Do you think 2020 is a reasonable goal for hitting their targets? If you’d like to read the full study you can grab the PDF from the RSPO site here.

Why the palm oil industry must focus on sustainability?

Palm oil is one of the most versatile oils in the world. Palm oil used in the cosmetics industry and in most food products. Did you know that, 50% of all supermarket products contain some form of palm oil, but will usually be listed as ‘vegetable oil’.

Palm oil is used in biofuel, as well as a number of uses in the chemical industry. Palm oil is relatively cheap to produce, as the plant is extracted in large quantities from Indonesia, Nigeria and Malaysia.

While Palm oil is extremely useful, versatile and cheap the produce the process for obtaining it is harmful to the environment. The palm oil industry has destroyed large amounts of rainforests and put a number of native species such as the Sumatran Tiger and Sunbear at risk of extinction.

The process for obtaining palm oil begins by clearing a large area of land, so it can become a palm oil plantation. This process can destroy large amounts of rainforest and natural habitats.

The palm oil plant is then planted and grown. When the palm oil fruit is ready to be harvested, it is ready to be made into oil.

Next, the land is burnt which forms hazardous carbon dioxide that contributes damage to the o-zone layer.  Peatland is completely unusable for at least 20 years.

The majority of palm oil plantation workers are over-worked and under-paid, resulting into stress and hardship for the employees.

While it is not practical or feasible to stop the production of palm oil, the companies that produce palm oil can look into ways that the palm oil industry can become sustainable.  This can be done through a number of ways such as:

  • Replanting ten trees for every one tree that is cut down
  • Using land that will not damage the environment or destroy an endangered animal’s environment if it is used to grow oil palm.

There have been major steps forward in making the palm oil industry more sustainable such as volunteer organisations including GreenPalm and the round table for sustainable palm oil that offer certificates to palm oil producers for producing ‘green’ palm oil.

While this has been a significant step forward, some palm oil producers still produce palm oil in a way that is harmful to the environment.

It is very important that producers invest in sustainable palm oil as we rely on it every day. It would be nearly impossible now to stop the world’s reliance on it so we need to invest in ways to make the continued production of palm oil sustainable.

Palm oil production needs to be sustainable

Palm oil production is big business in Malaysia. However, this labour intensive industry is offering very low wages at $150 per month; this is attracting migrant workers from poorer neighbouring countries including Bangladesh and Indonesia.

The Malaysian government have introduced a new minimum wage scheme, which will take a monthly income working in a palm oil plant to $300 a month, but this is still under the poverty line. The palm oil plantations are worried that targets will not be met, unless more work visas are created to meet the demand of palm oil production.  More jobs need completion by the people of Malaysia.

Creating sustainable palm oil is important and it is vital to focus on creating fair trade jobs – where the worker receives a reasonable rate of pay for the work done.  Palm oil is a commodity used in many products including biscuits, breads, cakes, crisps, frozen food and bio-fuel.

There are so many issues surrounding the production of sustainable farming including environment, legal and issues.  Not only underpaid workers, but also orangutans are victims to this multi-billion dollar industry.

The demand for palm oil is growing – and fast. The palm oil plant is increasingly being used in biodiesel, to feed this ever-growing demand, rainforests and peatlands throughout South East Asia are destroying the eco-system.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) established in 2001, to prevent unethical actions including environmental and social problems. The GreenPalm programme awards a certificate for each tonne of palm oil, which has been sustainable produced. These GreenPalm certificates work in a similar process as carbon credits.

Sustainable Palm Oil Is a Growing Concern

Palm oil is a commodity that is highly in demand. Since the eve of the second millennium, governments have been prioritising on developing a greener planet.  Car manufacturers are focused on building clearer and more efficient cars.

Countries that produce palm oil including: Malaysia, Colombia and Indonesia are under pressure to supply the demand. Sustainability is a growing concern. There is a huge threat to wildlife and rain forests in tropical regions. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) established in 2003,  tackle the problems of deforestation and the growing regions of peat lands. As a result, the number of orangutans have declined and now classed as endangered species.

The responsibility of the RSPO is to enforce sustainable palm oil regulations. Oil palms are highly efficient oil producers each fruit containing 50% of oil. The palm oil tree produces more oil than any other oil plant per hectare.

Palm oil can be a highly sustainable resource if planned properly. As the global demand increases, it is important to keep the rainforests safe and natural habitats preserved.

In 2011, the Cameroon palm oil project has evidence that threatens the eco-system of west Central Africa.  Doctors and environmental experts wrote to National Geographic stating their concern of this project and that numerous laws and RSPO rules are in violation.

Some of the violations include the proposed 70,000 hectare palm oil plantation is unsuitable for most wildlife species. The project will require large dense area of high-canopy forest to be removed in order to plant oil palms, resulting in additional carbon dioxide, resulting to an incline of deforestation and the decline of certain species.

It is imperative, that regulations are in place to protect local communities and the current ecosystem.  Sustainability is an important aspect of any farming infrastructure, the developing quality regulations and practices, sustainable farming is highly achievable.