RSPO Makes Significant Progress on Palm Oil Sustainability

Feb 1, 2017 2:00 PM ET
RSPO Makes Significant Progress on Palm Oil Sustainability

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organization dedicated to “transforming the market to make sustainable palm oil the norm.” To accomplish this goal, the RSPO monitors how their efforts affect the three pillars of sustainability: people, planet and profit. As part of that effort, the RSPO has recently released a report highlighting how their sustainability efforts have positively impacted these pillars throughout 2016.

Sustainable palm oil production will be a critical supply chain issue in 2017 and world attention is expected to increase on the issue. Given the broad use of palm oil in everyday products and its propensity for increased environmental damage as well as for forced labor issues, companies will require RSPO certification and other forms of tracking and verification to provide consumers and investors their products are not exposed to risk.

One of the biggest victories for the RSPO in 2016 was the near 10% increase in high conservation value area (compared to the last report). This means that more than 157,000 hectares of forest and indigenous land (equivalent to the size of 200,000 soccer fields) will now be protected against deforestation. In addition to protecting natural habitats, the RSPO has aided more than 40 palm oil manufacturers in ceasing the use of Paraquat – a toxic pesticide.

The report also indicated an increase in the number of smallholders who are certified by the RSPO. Smallholders are defined as farmers who grow oil palm, alongside with subsistence crops, where the “family provides the majority of labor and the farm provides the principal source of income, and the planted oil palm area are is less than 50 hectares,” according to RSPO. As of this moment, 109,415 smallholders have been certified under the RSPO for utilizing Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). This was made possible through the RSPO Smallholder Support Fund (RSSF), which aims to provide increased access to RSPO certification, and to the increased production of CSPO.

Additionally, the RSPO is currently working on five of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set in place by the United Nations in 2015. These include: Ending global hunger, ensuring that clean water is available for all, promoting sustainable consumption and production, securing sustainable economic growth and productive employment, and reversing land degradation.

The RSPO is making a greater impact year after year in reducing the negative effects that the cultivation of palm oil has had on the planet. In 2016, they made positive strides by increasing the amount of conserved land, eliminating harmful pesticides, and helping companies become RSPO certified through using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. “The most important priority in the sustainable palm oil sector is to continue to help shape government and global policy to strike the right balance between the need for development and environmental protection globally,” said Darrel Webber, CEO of the RSPO, in the 2016 report.

To learn more about the state of sustainable palm oil sourcing and the challenges global supply chains will face, click here.