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On Friday 14 June 2019, with our partners the European Palm Oil Alliance and IDH - The Sustainable Trade Initiative, RSPO convened a multilateral meeting of members and stakeholders to debate how Europe will meet its target to source 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020. We asked how the industry, working in the spirit of shared responsibility, will meet the challenges head on, and adapt to evolving standards of sustainability.
This year in Europe, we decided to try something a little different - an event that is like our organisation; built on collaboration, bringing diverse groups together, and sometimes heated debates. We called it the Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue. Via an interactive platform, delegates were asked to cast their questions, votes, and ideas in a challenging and fast paced debate.
Throughout the day, it was discussed that while Europe has achieved an impressive 74% of certified sustainable palm oil used by the food industry - this is still some distance from our target of 100% by 2020. There has been real concrete progress and systemic changes to a very large industry but Europe has reached a precarious tipping point. We have many members with commitments to achieve 100% CSPO by 2020 or to completely eradicate deforestation from their supply chain by the same. Some members will not meet these goals by their appointed timelines. RSPO CEO, Datuk Darrel Webber remarked that while sufficient Certified Sustainable Palm Oil is available, some of it is still going unsold.
“The Growers are working hard to meet these strict requirements. They are investing a tremendous amount of time and money to implement a new P&C. If we’re to incentivise and mainstream sustainable production, the downstream market must now commit to buy certified sustainable palm oil and support the efforts of these growers. Driving market uptake and demand for sustainable palm oil is a shared responsibility, with action required from all industry players.”
Engaging with, and supporting, Independent Smallholders, was offered as one important approach to making the industry more inclusive while also mainstreaming sustainable production practices. Rukaiyah Rafiq, Head of FORTASBI Smallholder School, reminded delegates that, "We cannot leave smallholders behind, otherwise the destruction will continue. All will lose out. We need a new standard, it must be good and applicable. We need government support too. We need buyers support. Buy Independent Smallholder Credits!” Attention was brought to RSPO Credits as a fast and cost-effective way for companies to top up and meet their CSPO sourcing and sustainability targets, and crucially support the production of sustainable palm oil. Delegates and speakers both acknowledged that significant work has been done to try and achieve our goals, but then we must look at where there are existing roadblocks. Looking forward, during the shared Responsibility debate, Aimee Rusillo of LiSeed Consulting explained that "Everyone has a role in transforming the sustainable palm oil sector. We need equivalency, equality and trust." How this will manifest is critical to our success in achieving our mission to mainstream sustainable palm oil.
RSPO members have built a strong foundation from which we can continue to improve our standard and meet the challenging uptake targets. Ahead of the event, the IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands released a benchmark study which affirmed that we are headed in the right direction and are leaders in sustainable certification.
With challenges ahead, the commitment from our stakeholders has not waned. We must now work together to convert our commitments into action, and close the gap between supply and demand. We hope to create more events, in more markets, and to invite a wider audience to learn about sustainable palm oil. This is the best way forward for all, if we’re going to make sustainable palm oil mainstream.