The Belgian Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil (BASP) was originally launched in 2012 to address issues of sustainability and was more recently expanded to include nutrition and health in the Belgian palm oil market.
Following some early successes, BASP was relaunched last year as an official association, in a move that got significant press attention. Whilst its main focus stays on affecting a transformation towards sustainable palm oil, its new secondary focus is on ‘re-balancing the debate’ by talking to journalists and other stakeholders to engage all parties in the debate rather than just promoting the use of sustainable palm oil.
Currently led by the food sector, BASP has reached out to the cosmetic industry association which has reacted positively and is interested in the issue of sustainable palm oil, despite finding it very difficult to trace palm oil in its members’ products. The animal feed industry federation is not currently a member of the Alliance, however BASP will soon meet them to discuss opportunities for membership or support.
BASP is currently exploring bringing retailers into the Alliance by inviting them to be members of consultative committees.
BASP’s influencer strategy’ has involved educating key opinion leaders, NGOs and journalists about the technical, nutritional and sustainability aspects of palm oil. Previously, this had been focussed solely on reaching industry stakeholders, but in 2015 communications moved towards informing the general public. Its communications activities range from creating brochures for distribution in doctors’ waiting rooms, to organising press trips to Malaysia.
On the back of much media attention on palm oil and soy products during 2013 and 2014, the Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Environment attempted to set up a national initiative. However, the move was rejected by business because of targets deemed to be too restrictive for the market’s sustainability leaders – and too onerous for those that yet to commit fully to adopting sustainability principles.
So, it was left to businesses themselves to form national commitments. As a result, there is not a single national initiative in place in Denmark, but rather two separate ones: the first run by the Danish Chamber of Commerce (which covers retailers); the second led by the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) (which covers food producers).
The Confederation of Danish Industry-led initiative made a commitment in June 2014 to buy 100% CSPO by 2016, including the purchase of GreenPalm certificates, and to have 100% segregated certified palm oil by 2018.
There has been progress amongst the larger retail companies towards transforming their palm oil supply, with the three main supermarkets (accounting for 90% of the market) advancing with their efforts. Most of the large retailers are already covering all privatelabel food products with certificates and moving towards mass balance.
However, there is a general lack of consumer information and interest. As in Norway and Sweden, companies and associations are cautious when it comes to reaching out to consumer for fear of provoking the ‘no palm oil’ movement.
In France, two major events have made the food industry reconsider its approach to palm oil. In 2010, a number of NGOs raised awareness of its negative impact on the environment. At the same time, the media reported criticism from some nutritionists about palm oil and its effect on the nation’s health due to its high saturated fatty acid content. French Senator Yves Daudigny even called for an extra tax on palm oil of €300 per tonne in addition to an existing €100 levy (a move which was later rejected by the French Parliament).
Some companies opted to remove palm oil from their products. But others chose to take action by forming the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil in 2013.
Since 2014, the Alliance has managed to position itself as a key reference point in the palm oil debate, recognized by all the stakeholders involved (NGOs, media, key opinion leaders, scientifics, governments, growers, producing countries, refiners, companies, retailers and final users). The Alliance has also become a strong channel of communication to promote a sustainable and traceable palm oil under the criteria defined by its members.
FONAP was set up in 2013 with the goal to increase the proportion of segregated CSPO in the German, Austrian and Swiss markets. The Forum only focuses on sustainability aspects and does not have a health dimension.
FONAP conducted a monitoring report in 2014, based on 2013 figures provided by their members. According to that data, progress so far shows that amongst the Forum’s members they have achieved: 52% CSPO in the food sector; 30% across all sectors; 50% in the cosmetics, personal and home care sector; 10% in the chemistry and pharmacy sector; and 1% in the feed sector.
Most of the sectors are still far from reaching their target; the only one which is close to 100% CSPO is the margarine producers.
FONAP includes food manufacturers and retailers, but it also has quite a large number of cosmetic, personal and home care members. The notable absentee is the animal feed sector.
On 29th October 2015 the European Palm Oil Conference (EPOC 2015) held in Milan welcomed the launch of the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil (Unione Italiana per l’olio di palma sostenibile). The Union has just begun work on the task of raising awareness of the benefits and contribution of certified sustainable palm oil for the food industry. Industry associations such as Aidepi and Assitol and manufacturers such as Ferrero and Nestlè are already members of the Union, and its aim is to achieve the 100% CSPO goal by 2020. President of the Italian Union is Giuseppe Allocca.
On 2 December 2015 the ‘Dutch Alliance on Sustainable Palm Oil’ (DASPO) was launched. The DASPO is the successor of the Dutch Task Force Sustainable Palm Oil which was created in 2010 initially because there was a lack of CSPO uptake. Growers had made the first move by starting to produce CSPO and there was a need to match that effort downstream.
The members of the DASPO are: Dutch Bakery and Confectionery Industry (VBZ), Dutch Convenience Food Association (AKSV), Dutch Food Retail Association (CBL), Dutch Food Industry Federation (FNLI), Dutch Potato Processors Association (VAVI), International Margarine Association for the Countries of Europe (IMACE-NL), MVO - The Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry, The Dutch Feed Industry Association (Nevedi), The Association of Dutch Producers of Edible Oils and Fats (Vernof).
IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative is partner of the DASPO.
DASPO members commit themselves to: 1) maintain the commitment towards the level of 100% sustainable palm oil processed in the Netherlands and destined for the Dutch market. 2) Stimulate their members to use physical sustainable palm oil, palm kernel oil, fractions and derivatives in RSPO (Identity Preserved, Segregated and Mass Balance) - or equivalent - to process or buy for the Dutch market. 3) To plea for, and stimulate the continuous improvement of certification systems for sustainable palm oil such as the RSPO - or equivalent - in line with relevant developments.
In 2014, Task Force members took important steps towards their commitment: 72% of the palm oil processed by the Dutch food industry was sustainable. This is an 11% increase compared to the 2013 reporting. Positive developments have led to many sectors processing around 80% sustainable palm oil. Also, the percentage of segregated palm oil has grown with 8%. Furthermore, the feed sector initiated important actions to reach the Task Force commitment. The demand for sustainable palm oil outside the Netherlands is therefore also important for the Dutch production. To support the European demand, IDH (The Sustainable Trade Initiative) and MVO – the Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry, recently launched the ‘European Sustainable Palm Oil’ (ESPO) initiative. The Task Force supports this initiative and its objective to work together on sustainable palm oil on a European level. To read the full 2014 report click here
The National Initiative in Norway was set up in response to mounting pressure from Norwegian civil society to tackle the problems associated with palm oil – both from an environmental and health standpoint.
Prominent NGOs, such as the Rainforest Foundation, were highly influential in raising the debate and pressuring companies to do something about palm oil. The Norwegian food and beverage association was responsible for bringing together food and retail sector companies to make a commitment to sustainable palm oil in 2014.
Members of the National Initiative in Norway have committed to either reduce use of palm oil in products or to use only RSPO CSPO by 2015. They have further committed that by 2018 any palm oil products used will be segregated and traceable. The Norwegian commitment applies both to imports of palm oil or finished products consumed in Norway.
According to the initiative, the goal to use only RSPO certified palm oil by 2015 is “likely to be met”. However, the secondary goal of establishing fully segregated, traceable palm oil by 2018 is not so certain.
The main sectors involved in the drive to increase the use of sustainable palm oil in Norway are the food and retail sectors. The food sectors are largely represented by the big, international manufacturers; whilst the retail sector comprises three of the four major retailers. In terms of personal care products, the major Norwegian supplier is on board with the initiative and the rest of the players in the cosmetics sector are international companies, not based in Norway.
The animal feed sector is not formally involved with the Norwegian network.
The key driver for change in the Swedish market has been NGO pressure. Here, as in Norway, NGOs push for both certification and also replacement of palm oil in products and have led industry to take a closer look at the provenance of its ingredients.
The process to form the Swedish initiative on sustainable palm oil started a few years ago and was mainly driven by a limited number of companies with interests in increasing use of sustainable palm oil in Sweden. The Swedish food industry federation embraced the vision of these outriders and the initiative was set up in 2014.
Each company commits to report how large volume of palm oil they use and the share that is certified according to the principles of RSPO, and also how large volume that is ‘segregated’.
The presence of an active NGO scene is a strong enabling factor, pressuring companies to stick to their commitments. However, while the large companies are moving forward with their commitments, the smaller companies are “lagging behind”, according to the initiative.
In October 2012, UK Government and trade associations with a significant membership interest in the supply or use of palm oil made a statement of their various commitments to sourcing sustainable palm oil under the overall heading ‘The United Kingdom is working towards achieving 100% sourcing of credibly certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2015’. The UK Government has played a leadership role, supporting the commitment to sustainable palm oil, and has had a significant impact on the level of uptake in the UK.
Organisations that have signed up to the UK statement represent oil processors and distributors, food and drink manufacturers, retailers, animal feed manufacturers, contract catering and hospitality sector, renewable energy sector, cleaning products industry, speciality chemicals sector, WWF and ZSL.
On 17th November 2015 DEFRA announced new figures that show UK imports of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) rising to as much as 93% of all palm oil imported. The results of the Report show that imports of segregated and mass balance certified sustainable palm oil and purchases of GreenPalm certificates by UK companies in 2014 were equivalent to an estimated proportion 72% (increasing from 55% in 2013) or 93% (increasing from 71% in 2013) of UK palm oil imports (excluding derivatives and finished goods) depending on the baseline trade data used. The challenge now for the UK is to keep the momentum beyond 2015 and push on to the 100% CSPO target for Europe in 2020.