More committing to support sustainability

IT looks like the race to get the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification may be on again.

Last week’s announcement by the Netherlands, Europe’s largest palm oil importer, on its pledge to use only sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO by the end of 2015 is yet another wake-up call for all uncertified oil palm plantations and producers that are taking the sustainability issue very lightly and are reluctant to undertake the time-consuming RSPO certification process.

The latest move by the Netherlands, also marked the first time a country rather than a company had shown commitment in the usage of sustainable palm oil.

Many are all too familiar with the previous moves taken by major Western consumer goods companies like Unilever, Kraft, Burger King, Nestle and Cadbury, which had openly boycotted the purchase of what they claimed to be unsustainable palm oil from some producers in Indonesia.

The Netherlands is also calling on other palm oil importing countries in Europe, North America and Asia to follow its footsteps.

So far, China, which is one of the world’s largest edible oil importers, has also pledged to use sustainable palm oil by 2015.

Unilever too in 2008 had made a commitment to have fully traceable palm oil supply chains in place by 2012 and all of its imported palm oil to be certified sustainable by 2015.

As the word sustainability is getting to be big in Europe and gaining attention from other importing nations worldwide, all uncertified oil palm plantation players in major producing nations like Indonesia and Malaysia now have no choice but to speed up on their respective RSPO certification initiatives.

Having said that, some consumers are also questioning the effectiveness of being RSPO-certified as while some producers may be RSPO members, not all have their operations RSPO-certified.

In fact, the ongoing RSPO meeting in Jakarta is expected to thrash out a lot of impending issues among its stakeholders – planters, buyers, lenders and green activists – particularly on the carbon emission targets to the green standards, tighter financing and funds for further forest preservation programmes.

Roughly, Indonesia and Malaysia together produce about 85% of the world’s total palm oil production annually.

According to the RSPO website, currently there are 21 oil palm growers and 75 oil palm mills which are RSPO-certified, producing about 3.25 million tonnes of certified sustainable palm oil.

In Malaysia, big plantation players with the RSPO certification include United Plantations Bhd, Kulim (M) Bhd, IOI Corp Bhd, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd and Johor-based JC Chang Group.

In addition, Felda Group in August became the world’s first smallholder organisation to attain the RSPO certification.

To re-cap what the Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said recently: “Malaysia may no longer be the world’s largest producer of palm oil but it is determined to portray the local industry as a responsible and sustainable one.”

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