By Leah Armstrong, 13-May-2009
New figures released by the World Wildlife Fund (WFF) today reveal that only one per cent of sustainable palm oil has been bought, in spite of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) pledge to use sustainable product.
Over 43 million tons of PALM OIL is produced worldwide, being used as a major ingredient in the production of food, cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and detergents. Europe imports 2.7 million tons of palm oil annually, making it the third biggest market for the world, after India and China.
WWF is particularly alarmed that that the problem is escalating, as the world’s demand for palm oil increases, in spite of initiatives such as RSPO. David McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture for WWF revealed that “so far 1.3 million tons of certified sustainable palm oil has been produced, but less than 15,000 tons have been sold.”
RSPO was set up in 2002 and has grown to include more than 300 members between them, accounting for more than 35% of global palm production. They each pledged to ‘help reduce deforestation, preserve biodiversity and respect the livelihoods of rural communities in palm-oil producing countries’.
In November 2008, the group’s commitment to this principle appeared to be in action, when the world’s first shipment of ‘RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil’ arrived in Rotterdam. At that time, the group stated that the use of sustainable oil would increase in the coming years. However, in light of recent figures, it would seem to the WFF that this was a hollow promise.
WWF has issued a statement asking all companies to use 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2015, to make public their plans with deadlines to achieve this goal and to begin purchasing certified sustainable oil immediately.
Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and WWF have long voiced concern about environmental damage caused by palm oil production.
“The tropical forests of Borneo and Sumatra are being cleared at such a rapid pace that the carbon emissions from this deforestation are greater than the industrial emissions of some developed countries, said WWF senior program officer Ginny Ng.
“The orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos on these islands don’t stand a chance of survival if their forests aren’t protected. Creating a demand for sustainably grown palm oil is essential to their survival”.
WWF is particularly alarmed that that the problem is escalating, as the world’s demand for palm oil increases, despite initiatives such as RSPO. David McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture for WWF revealed that “so far 1.3 million tons of certified sustainable palm oil has been produced, but less than 15,000 tons have been sold.”
New incentives for sustainability
In an effort to speed up their disappointing performance, WWF will assess the world’s major users of palm oil over the next six months and publish a ‘Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard’, ranking the commitment and actions of major global retailers, manufacturers and traders. They will be scored on a variety of criteria which will evaluate their performance and encourage them to switch to certified sustainable palm oil.
This news also comes at a time when research has yielded the first genetic blueprint of oil palms, an important step which could improve productivity and therefore sustainability.
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