5 European Nations Promise 100% Sustainable Palm Oil
Europe has taken a definitive step down the path of global sustainability by encouraging ethical and environmental palm oil production. Photo Credit: hodag via Flickr
The governments of France, Germany, the UK, Denmark and the Netherlands have officially pledged to make palm oil production 100% sustainable by 2020. By ensuring that they demand only certified sustainable palm oil, these countries aim to force ethical and environmental practice on an industry punishing ecosystems across the globe.
Part of what is called the European Sustainable Palm Oil Project (ESPO), the agreement is an important development in global sustainability. Palm oil has in recent years become a global scapegoat for deforestation, global warming, and increasingly, human rights violations. The blame is in many ways well-deserved – palm oil is responsible for intensive deforestation in mega-diverse tropical regions around the world, slash-and-burn farming methods create massive CO2-spouting fires each year (Indonesia’s fires in 2015 were at their peak emitting more CO2 per day than the entire US Economy), and the global palm oil industry is dependent on abusive migrant labor.
As the world’s second largest importer of palm oil responsible for 11-12 percent of world production, Europe has the power to shift this negative momentum. Before it does, however, a keen eye must be taken to the organization responsible for certifying sustainable palm oil.
The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – and most of the global palm oil producers it has granted a sustainable certification – have recently been exposed to be constantly bending and breaking their own rules. “Sustainable” palm oil companies are still cutting down forests, still abusing workers, and still grabbing land illegally from its original citizen owners.
European officials recognize this challenge, and have acknowledged that RSPO reforms will be necessary. Siska Pottie, managing director of the International Margarine Association of the Countries of Europe (IMACE) – a key player in making Europe’s palm oil demand sustainable – specifically mentioned RSPO reforms among other essential initiatives.
“Supporting producing countries to help them develop in a sustainable way, further alignment of definitions and criteria for sustainable palm oil, and a global approach in addressing deforestation is necessary to stop overall deforestation in the industry are necessary,” Pottie said.
Despite these issues and challenges, the commitment to sustainable palm oil by these five European nations is a bold step in the right direction for global sustainability. Perhaps Barbara Gallani of the UK trade body the Food and Drink Federation, another organization that signed the commitment, said it best:
“No individual player can succeed in tackling sustainability challenges on their own so initiatives such as the new European Commitment are crucial to driving systemic change across whole supply chains.”