Target: Jan Kees Vis, President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Goal: Ensure a traceable supply chain for certified sustainable palm oil to avoid the mixing of unsustainable palm fruit
The palm oil industry takes a large toll on the land and native creatures in the areas in which palm oil is produced. Although the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created to protect the environment and animals affected by palm oil plantations, there are several flaws in the system. Many companies have joined the RSPO and purchase palm oil from RSPO-certified plantations, and then claim to use sustainably sourced palm oil. Sadly, using RSPO-certified palm oil is no guarantee that the purchased palm oil is actually “clean” and sustainable.
The supply chain for RSPO-certified palm oil is dirty. Refineries process both certified sustainable palm oil and palm oil that has come from deforested land. Refineries often mix unsustainable palm oil with certified sustainable palm oil. The refined palm oil that is then sent to companies cannot honestly be called “sustainable” when it may contain a portion of dirty palm oil. Furthermore, RSPO members can trade fresh fruit bunches (bunches of palm kernel fruit) and oil from non-member, non-certified plantations. This means that unlicensed plantations that rely on forest fires, destroy peatland and participate in deforestation, are able to degrade the environment, destroy wildlife habitat, and sell their products to suppliers who have an RSPO certification. Currently, the RSPO has no restrictions on third-party suppliers. There are also instances where certified and non-certified oil is transported on the same trucks or stored in the same facilities. The certified palm oil is unlabled and untracked, leading to mixing of oils and unidentifiable clean oil.
The RSPO must enact policies that create supply chain traceability. Without tracking palm kernels in every step, from plantation, during transport, to the refinery, and subsequent transport to merchants, it is impossible to guarantee clean and sustainable palm oil. This is especially true if plantations are able to buy fresh fruit bunches from other plantations and pass them off as their own. The RSPO must improve its policies and ensure that all palm oil labeled as RSPO-certified is in fact sustainably produced without deforestation and habitat destruction. Tell RSPO to create a system to track and trace palm oil production within its certified members.
Dear Mr. Jan Kees Vis,
Palm oil is a popular ingredient in many packaged goods and personal care items, but it is often produced through destructive methods. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has honorable intentions, but it leaves loopholes that allow dirty palm oil to enter the supply chain and be passed off as certified sustainable palm oil. With this possibility, the destruction of the environment and essential habitat in such countries as Indonesia and Malaysia continues and the RSPO does not actually improve the problems in those countries.
The RSPO needs to create policies prohibiting the purchase of fresh fruit bunches from uncertified farmers as well as label and track the palm kernel fruit through every stage of production to prevent mixing with dirty fruit bunches and dirty palm oil. If you are going to certify something as sustainable, it must honestly be a product that does not harm the environment or animals. Currently, the RSPO certification does not do this. I ask you to create appropriate policies to address these issues and ensure that RSPO-certified palm oil is in fact sustainable.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: oneVillage Initiative via Wikimedia Commons