Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

What is the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and Certified Sustainable Palm Oil?

In response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2003. It promotes the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards.

RSPO is an industry-led, not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry to develop and implement global standards for certified sustainable palm oil. It includes environmental and social non-government organizations, such as WWF and Oxfam, as well as oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors.

Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is the palm oil that is produced in a plantation that is independently certified and managed in accordance with the RSPO standards.

Will WWF’s work unfairly discriminate against manufacturers or farmers who are using or producing palm oil from certified sources?

We believe that our work can only drive consumer demand for a palm oil industry that is certified sustainable.

Palm oil from certified sustainable sources accounts for 4 percent of the global supply and carries a relatively small price premium – as little as 1%. This is unlikely to detrimentally affect the Australian oil-using manufacturing industry. In fact, we believe that our work can actually be of benefit to manufacturers who only use palm oil from certified sustainable sources because it gives them a competitive advantage.

Will WWFs work affect the livelihoods of poor and disadvantaged plantation farmers in Indonesia and Malaysia who rely on oil palm plantations to survive?

Millions of people rely on this industry for their livelihood. By promoting sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO, we are promoting the growth of a sustainable palm oil industry that sets new environmental and social standards. 

Can there ever really be a sustainable source of palm oil? If WWF creates consumer demand, won’t that mean plantations will continue to grow and forests continue to be destroyed to satisfy this demand?

There is enough land already cleared that is suitable for palm oil production to more than satisfy current and future demand. However, given there is currently such a small market for sustainable certified palm oil, it’s actually more cost-effective for manufacturers to use palm oil from sources that destroy virgin rainforest.

We believe that if there is enough consumer demand we can create a market for CSPO – in the same way there is a growing market for Fair Trade Food and FSC products.

The certified sustainable palm oil industry is small, so how do you expect it to cope with the demand you hope to grow?

In November 2008, 1.3 million tonnes of palm oil was certified and made available. By the end of 2009, production of certified palm oil had grown to 2 million tonnes annually.

Import data obtained from the ABS indicates that Australia imports about 130,000 tonnes of palm oil each year (2003–2007), a fraction of the annual production of certified sustainable palm oil..

On a global scale, Australia is a relatively small consumer of palm oil, so is it really an issue?

Absolutely. Our consumption of palm oil is still contributing to this crisis and many consumers don’t even know about it.

We have an opportunity to lead the world in the use of certified sustainable palm oil. If we do, we will set an example for the rest of the world that certified sustainable palm oil can replace palm oil from unsustainable sources.

CSPO labelling

The Australian Government currently relies on consumers to judge the value of food products differentiated on the basis of ingredient content and food production. There is no requirement to label palm oil or its derivatives in a product’s ingredients list.

How can consumers choose or demand the alternative to unsustainable palm oil when they are unable to tell whether the product even contains palm oil?
This facility is owned and operated by New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. one of the first companies to be ... / ©: Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon
Palm Oil cultivation, Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea.
© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon
In order to ensure that no land of high conservation value is brought under cultivation, (primary forest, peat lands, wetlands, essential wildlife corridors) NBPOL has had independent assessors map the bio-diversity in and around their operations.
This will determine their future expansion plans as well as guide their current management practices.

This facility is owned and operated by New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. one of the first companies to be independently certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as being a leader in the production of sustainable and ethical palm oil in the world. Kimbe Bay, West New Britain, Papua New Guinea, 20 May 2010