Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm Elaeis oleifera and the maripa palm Attalea maripa.
Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
In order to ensure laws are adhered to, and to encourage sustainability throughout the industry, in 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed. Made up of a consortium of NGO’s and palm oil producers, the voluntary organisation hopes to encourage palm oil producers to adopt practices and guidelines that would lead to palm oil production becoming environmentally and socially sustainable. Hence, by joining the organisation companies are obliged to comply with the RSPO’s ‘Principles & Criteria’, which stipulate that all palm oil producers commit to transparency, comply with all laws and regulations of the countries they are working in, commit to long term economic viability, use appropriate best practices, behave in an environmentally responsible way and conserve natural resources and biodiversity, consider employees and local communities and adhere to responsible development. If all these criteria are reached, palm oil producers are encouraged to have their palm oil plantations certified by the RSPO as sustainable, which would allow them to use the RSPO logo and advertise their palm oil as such. More
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
Conflict Palm Oil
Virtually all of the world’s Conflict Palm Oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia, where unscrupulous corporations have been caught red-handed stealing land from locals, using child and slave labor, and destroying the rainforest homes of orangutans, elephants, rhinos and tigers. In extreme cases, these endangered animals are hurt, poisoned, killed or become orphaned.
The production of Conflict Palm Oil is on the rise in order to meet growing demand from global sweets and snacks manufacturers looking for cheap oils, often to replace trans-fats. This market is driving the use of slash and burn techniques to convert millions of acres of rainforests and carbon-rich, environmentally-sensitive peatlands to industrial palm oil plantations. The loss of these rainforests and peatland carbon sinks, combined with smoke from the illegal fires often set to clear them, adds hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. In fact, deforestation in Indonesia alone contributes more carbon pollution into the atmosphere each year than all the cars, trucks, planes and ships in the U.S. combined.
“When you eat food that comes out of a bag, a box, or a package of any kind, chances are you are eating palm oil, it is added to chocolate, turned into fry oil, and snuck into snacks of all sorts—in fact, it can now be found in roughly half the packaged food products sold in grocery stores. This palm oil comes at a terrible human and environmental cost. Skyrocketing demand has driven massive, industrial palm oil plantations into millions of acres of formerly lush rainforest habitat in Indonesia and Malaysia, worsening climate change and causing widespread human rights violations.”
The Great RSPO Membership Myth: Why Buying from RSPO Members Is Meaningless.
“Companies buying palm oil need to be aware that the only way to ensure sustainable sourcing is to buy certified sustainable palm oil from companies that have been assessed against the RSPO standards. Buying from RSPO members is not enough.” – WWF
The RSPO is a body of stakeholders including palm oil producers, processors, traders, retailers, banks and NGOs working to promote the growth, production, distribution and use of sustainable palm oil. There is a very important distinction between RSPO membership and RSPO certification. RSPO certification is a seal of approval that is given to palm oil grown on a plantation that has been certified through a verification of the production process by accredited certifying agencies. In theory, the “certified sustainable” palm oil (RSPO oil) is traceable through the supply chain by certification of each facility along the supply chain that processes or uses the certified oil.
How You Can Help:
A. Purchase items that do not use palm oil or that use sustainable palm oil only.
B. Support companies that have joined the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by using this Palm Oil Shopping Guide or by downloading the Palm Oil Shopping Guide for iPhones and Android smartphones. You can also download this cool Palm Oil Fact Sheet for kids too.
C. Use your power as a consumer: Write to your favorite restaurants and companies. Let them know that you care about orangutans, sun bears, gibbons and their rainforest home, and that your concern is reflected in products you are willing to buy. Ask them to join the RSPO if they haven’t done so already. We have a sample letter you can use for your convenience.
D. Go see wild orangutans, sun bears, gibbons. Your tourist dollars make the rainforests worth more standing than cut down for plantations. Check out Hutan Project and the Bornean Sun BearConservation Centre.
E. Write to your local legislators and the President. Ask them not to explore palm oil as a biofuel option. Cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil is not a “green” substitute for gasoline.
F. Write to Indonesian and Malaysian government officials. Ask them to preserve their precious natural resources. They are the only countries in the world that have wild orangutans!
G. Get involved in organizations that are purchasing land for conservation in affected areas. http://www.oaklandzoo.org/Palm_Oil.php