(September 28, 2020) Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? And if so, what does it look like? This was the central question for a podcast interview I had with Robin Hicks, deputy editor of Eco-Business, a Singapore based news platform on sustainable development. Recent attention for a scientific paper in which co-author Roberto Gatti argues that sustainable palm oil doesn’t exist, and that the term is misleading for consumers, spurred another debate about the reality of sustainable palm oil.
Sustainable palm oil is deforestation-free, wildlife-friendly, fair & social. It means we protect forests and avoid a repetition of forest destruction that we have seen in the past. It also means palm oil production and wildlife co-exist, by taking the right measures to protect wildlife habitats and by raising awareness for the protection of wildlife among oil palm growers and their communities.
Just as important is the social side of sustainable palm oil, which means we secure livelihoods for the millions of growers and workers active in the palm oil sector and protect their human rights.
To date 19% of global palm oil production is certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Recent criticism focuses on certified sustainable plantations that are “checked off” as being free of deforestation, not taking into account that the land may have been forested 30 to 50 years ago. According to Mr. Gatti the historical environmental perspective that the RSPO should have followed is not taken into account.