Sustainable Palm Oil: a Friendly Solution for Nature and People by the Rainforest Alliance

To address today’s environmental and climate issues, as well as the increasing demands made by environmentally and social-aware consumers, more and more companies are looking for solutions to make their supply chains sustainable.

The growth of the use of palm oil in the last 20 years has led to unprecedented deforestation, particularly in Southeast Asia. The destruction of tropical forests has led to the loss of a rich and precious biodiversity and local communities losing their lands.

Founded in 2003 and bringing together producers and distributors of palm oil, scientists and NGOs, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) introduced its certification label in 2011 as an assurance to buyers of palm oil products that the standard of production is sustainable. Certification of palm oil protects forests and high conservation value, and the rights of local populations. RSPO is far from perfect but their certification is a welcomed first step. They still have a way to go in their sustainability criteria, including the protection of all peatlands and secondary forests that are currently not taken into account. The Rainforest Alliance, along with other NGOs, has participated in the RSPO to advance production criteria in this regard.

Based on the standards of the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN), the Rainforest Alliance’s certification and training programmes are now a credible solution to meet the most demanding criteria for palm oil cultivation. Approximately 56,000 hectares of palm plantations are Rainforest Alliance certified, protecting forests, wildlife and improving the lives of many local communities, mainly in Latin America. Palm groves and associations of small producers are currently under training and certification in Africa and Asia.

Currently, about 20% of the world’s palm oil is produced sustainably, yet nearly half of certified palm oil cannot find a buyer. As palm oil remains a key driver of global deforestation, contributing to global warming, time is running out. Stopping its devastating effect on the planet by transforming its methods of production so that is sustainable is a must.

In August 2015, the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) announced the publication of the first Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Guidelines. This public document is an important step to encourage products to be produced without net deforestation by 2020, and to giving consumers the chance to make more responsible choices.

The CGF recognises the Rainforest Alliance as an independent third party certification programme, which companies can work with to set up programs to help stop deforestation.

The Rainforest Alliance has been working with palm oil producers and the industry since 2008 to support a market transformation towards sustainable palm oil that is fully traceable, respecting the highest criteria of the SAN standards, which have been recognized as effective by organisations such as the CGF and the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil.

Learn more about the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable palm oil programme.

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