Roundtable heralds advent of sustainable palm oil

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Palm oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) says it is on the
cusp of delivering on its promise to put sustainable oil on the
market, and will be unveiling its certification system at its next
meeting in November.

Palm oil is used in a range of personal care products and soap, as well as in many food products including crisps, bread and margarine.

However the palm oil industry has been heavily criticised, since production is contributing to rapid deforestation, especially in Indonesia, and endangering native species.

The RSPO, an international multi-stakeholder organisation set up five years ago, has spent the past year and a half developing its certification system, which will have its first airing at the 5 th roundtable meeting November 20 - 22 in Malaysia.

This means that sustainable palm oil will soon be available on the market, giving cosmetics and food manufacturers a choice on whether to adhere to sustainability principles in their sourcing of the ingredient.

The Body Shop, one of the round table's 250-odd members, announced in July that it has entered into a partnership with Columbian palm oil supplier Daboon, which sources oil only from organic, sustainable cooperatives.

It plans to use sustainable palm all in all of the 14.5m bars of soap it produces each year.

The L'Oreal-owned company claimed this was a cosmetics industry first.

"Our ambition is for the majority of the world's palm oil production to be sustainable within the next two to three years but this will not be achieved by The Body Shop in isolation - our decision must inspire other businesses to join us and tackle the problem head on," said CEO Peter Saunders.

The development of certification will certainly give the movement a push, boosting credibility and, as a consequence, encourage more manufacturers to follow suit.

RSPO has also recently released the second draft of its principles and criteria, and advancing these will be a major theme of the November meeting.

Sustainability is increasingly communicated by ingredients firms as a driver to their operations, at a time when depletion of the world's resources is already causing Indeed, as has been seen with other commodities, the cost of palm oil has soared this year.

This year Malaysian palm oil prices have sourced to in excess of 2600 Malaysian ringgits per ton (€537, $756), compared to 1500 ringgits per ton (€310, $437) in September 2006.

The high has been attributed to rampant demand by food and biofuels processors, and in April the industry warned that the country's stocks were at a 19-month low.

Indonesia, meanwhile, which has been heavily criticised by Greenpeace for having the fastest rate of deforestation, is this year expecting a record palm oil crop of 17.4m tonnes.

No details on the comparative price of palm oil certified as sustainable by the RSPO are presently available.

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