Brands must be careful with sustainable palm oil claims

If you don’t read the PDF article below, or click on any of the links, perhaps take one thing away from this piece:

Brands must be very careful in talking about RSPO certified palm oil as sustainable.

It is not sustainable. I have met several executives recently who have proudly told me they are RSPO certified on palm oil, implying that the issue is no longer really a problem.

RSPO certified oil could be called “slightly more sustainable palm oil” at best.

The distinction is very important. It is high risk, if your firm buys palm oil, to talk about the RSPO process as sustainable. It is not, yet.

NGOs may yet turn against it, or campaign against some of its members, who may be your suppliers, because of the flaws they believe exist in the system.

Lots of brands have promised to end deforestation in supply chains by 2020.

The problem is, that may be too late to save a lot of the vulnerable forests.

Eight years is a long time considering the pace of modern development.

2020 MAY become too far away for campaigning forestry NGOs, who are among some of the most agressive and successful in humiliating brands into faster progress or policy changes.

The problems with deforestation and 2020 targets does not make the RSPO a bad thing. Not at all. It is a useful collaboration that has made great progress in the last four years in particular.

But forestry experts and NGOs who know sustainability science will tell you the RSPO process is not yet preventing either deforestation or peatland development, and in their view, is not moving fast enough.

This is why companies such as Nestle, Unilever and others are taking steps to go way beyond the RSPO or Green Palm system. Details are in the below links/PDF article.

Equally Green Palm, a trading system akin to carbon offsets, has severe credibility problems with NGOs.

More below, including a full PDF of the 4-5 page piece Ethical Corporation has just published on the subject, looking at the latest practices:


As some readers may recall, I’ve been writing a bit about sustainable palm oil in recent months.

The PDF below is the latest Ethical Corporation cover, contents and a longer piece than the one linked above, on how brands are engaging in the sustainable palm oil debate.

I’ve also been working with retailers on engaging suppliers in smarter business practices, and writing the odd practical blog post and column on that area.

The two areas of palm oil and changing business models come together in the below PDF, which looks at both.

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