Experts from around the world are calling for greater education about sustainable palm oil to counter pervasive misinformation. Two authorities speaking out on this issue are Italy’s FratiniVergano Partner Paolo R. Vergano and Solidaridad Network Asia Senior Advisor Teoh Cheng Hai. 

Both participated in a sustainability debate, which took place during the 2021 digital Palm Oil Trade Show. The event drew 24,000 registered participants from around the world.   

Hai explained why creating a 100% sustainable palm oil supply chain is vital. “Palm oil requires just 6.6% land use to produce 38.7% of the output of edible oils. Replacing palm oil with other oils increases the risks for higher deforestation.” 

He then described some of the successes and challenges of achieving 100% sustainability. There has been a triple-digit growth in RSPO membership, which includes manufacturers, growers, retailers and processes. “RSPO has done well in extending the reach but it is limited because it is a voluntary standard,” he explained, stressing that the national MSPO and ISPO sustainability standards can effectively transform the market. 

But while the three million-plus smallholders produce 40% of the palm oil, only 8.8% are CSPO members. “The no palm oil campaigns are hampering this progress,” he stated. 

These no palm oil campaigns have made headlines in the EU, where anti-palm initiatives are based on everything from green claims to land use. Vergano pointed out that these initiatives are based on a “proliferation” of different methods and criteria, many of which may be misleading. “This is causing discrimination against some products including palm oil.”

He stressed the importance of legislators and regulators making decisions based on the facts. “Measures must be based on transparent, measurable science,” he told debate participants.