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Palm oil: progress on sustainability, but challenges remain

By Rod Addy+

04-Jun-2014
Last updated on 04-Jun-2014 at 13:25 GMT

Foodservice and catering pose the greatest challenges to sustainable palm oil
Foodservice and catering pose the greatest challenges to sustainable palm oil

Foodservice and animal feed sectors pose challenges for groups pressing to increase use of sustainable palm oil, but progress is being made.

That’s the verdict of Danielle Morley, European director of outreach and development for the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the organisation championing sustainable supplies and cracking down on unsustainable sources globally.

“Hard to reach sectors include foodservice and catering, because they are less consumer-facing – they don’t have consumers breathing down their necks.”

The RSPO was aware that these areas needed to be a major focus in the immediate future she said.

High profile brands

By contrast, increasing use of segregated sustainable palm oil among supermarkets and food manufacturers with high profile brands, such as United Biscuits, was easier because their actions were more visible to shoppers, said Morley.

Morley celebrated the fact that progress was being made politically and commercially. For example, in the past year, new EU Member States had committed to relying completely on supplies of segregated sustainable palm oil or the purchase of sustainable certificates by the end of 2015.

These included France and Sweden, which pledged its commitment in March. Discussions were also underway in Denmark, said Morley.

The RSPO encourages the growth of segregated sustainable palm oil supply. It also backs companies such as GreenPalm selling certificates supporting sustainable palm oil in place of raw material where supplies cannot be guaranteed.

‘Uptake increasing’

“Uptake is increasing in all countries both of GreenPalm certificates and segregated supplies,” said Morley. “The last trade figures are showing an increase in mass balance segregated sustainable palm oil.”

About 56Mt of palm oil is produced globally, of which 10.7Mt is certified sustainable to RSPO standards. Roughly half of that – about 4.5Mt – is purchased and used in products.

The RSPO is holding its European Roundtable conference today (June 4) in London, where it plans to share more about progress on sustainable palm oil initiatives.

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