Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Certifying palm oil possible boon

Personal note: Call me cynical but this rush to 'look good' has me concerned that many palm oil suppliers are/will be telling people whatever they want to hear just to secure a sale. I don't oppose the concept of sustainable palm oil from Malaysia and Indonesia, I simply find it very difficult to believe any company in that industry - one which the RSPO (comprised of palm oil company people past or present) claims to be policing. NGO's have a lot of work to do before we can come even close to being confident in the claims made by the RSPO and its members. I know I keep saying this, but we need a lot more pressure from US and NZ supporters on companies in your country.


May 13, 2009 by Grace Chua

CERTIFYING palm oil as a sustainable fuel could help ward off environmental damage from palm oil plantations, however critics accuse such schemes of lacking teeth.

These schemes audit oil-palm growers on a number of criteria, like whether they cut down forests for plantations, their integration with local communities, and the amount of pollution they produce.


Dr Vengeta Rao, the RSPO's secretary-general, added that member producers were committed to becoming fully certified over specific time frames, and breaking that commitment could lead to exclusion from the organisation.

However, Mr Bustar Maitar of Greenpeace Indonesia, speaking at the conference, challenged RSPO regulations to be stronger.

... more

Participation in the main certification programme, run by international body the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and other programmes is voluntary for oil-palm growers and buyers.

For example, just 30 per cent of palm oil producers and 15 per cent of buyers worldwide are members of the RSPO.

The costs and benefits of certification measures were discussed by NGOs, scientists and industry members at a conference on palm oil, held at the National University of Singapore on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The conference, 'Biofuels: The Impact of Oil Palm on Forests and Climates', was organised by NUS and the Environmental Leadership & Training Initiative, a collaboration between Yale University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Demand for palm oil biodiesel as a fossil fuel alternative has grown with increasing awareness of climate change, and the oil is also used in food and cosmetics.

Since the RSPO began certifying producers last November, over 1.5 million tonnes of sustainable-certified palm oil has been produced. But that is still a fraction of the more than 40 million tonnes produced worldwide each year.

Though RSPO membership is voluntary, some large palm-oil producers like Wilmar and Cargill are members.