At a time when some governments and NGOs are still advocating for palm oil boycotts, the global commodity has received support from the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). In a palm oil scorecard article posted to the WWF website, the NGO presents several reasons for stopping palm oil boycotts. Instead, it supports the use of certified sustainable palm oil.
Oil palm trees are extremely efficient and have advantages over other oil-producing crops that can’t be ignored. Companies can continue to reap the benefits of using palm oil in their products. The solution lies in supply chain management and sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.
The ramifications are far-reaching
Palm oil is a versatile crop with a wide array of properties and functions. Its presence in almost 50 percent of packaged foods and cosmetics demonstrates its widespread appeal. The WWF explains, “It is semi solid at room temperature so can keep spreads spreadable; it is resistant to oxidation so can give products a longer shelf life; it’s stable at high temperatures so helps to give fried products a crispy and crunchy texture; and it’s also odorless and colorless so doesn’t alter the look or smell of food products.”
The efficiency of the oil palm makes it stand out from other oil-producing crops. It is, “able to produce high quantities of oil over small areas of land, almost all year round,” comments the WWF. “Globally, palm oil supplies 40% of the world’s vegetable oil demand on just under 6% of the land used to produce all vegetable oils. To get the same amount of alternative oils like soybean, coconut or sunflower oil, you would need anything between 4 and 10 times more land, which would just shift the problem to other parts of the world and threaten other habitats, species and communities.”
Not only does palm oil have benefits as a product ingredient, but the industry itself supports smallholder farmers who make a living off palm oil production. Without a demand for palm oil, the livelihood of these families would be at stake. The WWF declares, “Boycotting palm oil is not the answer. Instead, we need to demand more action to tackle the issues and go further and faster.”
What action can companies take to work toward sustainability?
Some countries and organizations recognize the severity of deforestation and global warming, and are changing the palm oil industry. “The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO was formed in 2004 in response to increasing concerns about the impacts palm oil was having on the environment and on society,” the WWF explains. “The RSPO has a production standard that sets best practices producing and sourcing palm oil, and it has the buy-in of most of the global industry.”
The RSPO encourages companies to create robust policies that would remove deforestation and human rights abuses from their supply chains. The RSPO suggests buying and using RSPO-certified palm oil across global operations, and wants companies to be transparent about where they source their palm oil.
The WWF concludes, “The best thing we can do is support sustainable palm oil and avoid boycotts.”