What is Certified Sustainable Palm Oil? We call it palm oil that was certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) according to specific criteria. By respecting those criteria, we can help to reduce the negative impacts of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities.
Palm oil is used in many of the products on supermarket shelves, from margarine and chocolate to ice cream, soaps, cosmetics, and fuel for cars and power plants. The reason why palm oil is so popular is because:
India, China, Indonesia and Europe are the main consumers of palm oil. It is estimated that a French person consumes on average 2 kg of palm oil per year, or 6% of total fat consumption of an adult between the ages of 18 and 72 (source: Fonds Français pour l’Alimentation et la Santé, Etat des lieux, November 2012).
In some regions, oil palm cultivation has caused – and continues to cause – deforestation. This means that land, which was once predominantly covered by primary forest (forest that has never been touched by man) or which housed protected species and biodiversity, was cleared in order to be converted into palm oil plantations.
Likewise, some palm oil plantations were developed without consulting local communities over the use of their land. Some have even been responsible for forcibly displacing people from their land. Violations of workers’ rights to fair payment and safe working conditions and other malpractices have also occurred.
Despite widely-reported malpractices in the industry, a growing number of players in the palm oil industry have committed to adopting more sustainable practices. The result of this gradual transition is an increasing amount of palm oil in our products that has been produced and sourced in a sustainable manner.
Although using other vegetable oils seems like a practical solution, it would actually create similar - if not even larger - environmental and social problems. Therefore, the best solution is to ensure you buy products that contain sustainable palm oil.
There is a misconception that these concerns can be addressed when companies simply stop using palm oil in their products. However, this is not as easy as it sounds for a number of reasons:
In 2008, the RSPO developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize negative impacts.
One of the most important RSPO criteria states no primary forests or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can be cleared.
Other RSPO principles stipulate a significantly reduced use of pesticides and fires; fair treatment of workers according to local and international labour rights standards, and the need to inform and consult with local communities before the development of new plantations on their land. You can learn more about RSPO's Principles and Criteria here.
Only by being RSPO-certified by an independent auditor approved by the RSPO can producers claim that they produce, use and/or sell sustainable palm oil.