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Category: RSPO

Is Sustainable Palm Oil Possible?

It is a well-known among chemical suppliers and users (ie-manufacturers of consumable goods) within the cosmetic and personal care industries that the notion of palm and palm kernel oils as being sustainable is precarious at best. “Sustainable” palm oil garners a higher price on the open market, satisfies eco-conscious consumers, and leaves all involved with the false impression that palm and palm kernel oils can be grown sustainably in the present locations from where they originate. The US market relies on the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to certify these oils as being produced in a sustainable manner. The RSPO does so by using third-party auditors who are obliged to follow a list of Principals and Criteria set by the RSPO. These auditors are paid by the plantations and mills they are certifying. This arrangement alone is prone to abuse. There is evidence that auditors will collude with oil palm plantations to disguise the true situation on the ground (EIA, Who Watches the Watchmen, 2015). This collusion allows their “customers” to obtain the desired certification and increases the certifier’s chances of being used again for the next property assessment. This is just one example of many that shows the inadequacy of the RSPO to halt environmental and human rights abuses that have been rampant in this industry for the last two decades.

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Let’s Fix the Problems That Plague Palm Oil

With decades of environmental devastation and human rights violations, palm oil has been under the scrutiny of environmentalists, NGOs, and consumers for quite a while. Certifying bodies like the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), and more recently the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), have tried to certify the sustainability of palm and palm kernel oils. Unfortunately, lax rules, weak enforcement and domination by commercial interests have served to weaken the effectiveness of these organizations.

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What’s Wrong with the RSPO?

The environmental atrocities of the palm industry that were witnessed in the 1990s served to give the
oil palm industry a pretty bad reputation among environmentalists. These abuses were well known and damaging the reputation of a material that should by all other accounts have a good environmental standing. Palm oil is, after all, the most efficient oil in that we can get more oil from a single palm plant than any other natural oil available.

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