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Palm Oil... boycott it or demand better sourcing?
Last Post 27/06/2016 11:57:02 by pamela09uk. 30 Replies.
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heatheradmin Senior Member Senior Member Posts:172
17/06/2015 12:11:08
    Issue 156 of Ethical Consumer will be a palm oil special.

    We will be looking at spreadable butter, biscuits and ice-cream and the serious concerns around the habitats, human rights and climate change in relation to palm oil production.

    But are the alternatives any better?

    Should we be boycotting products containing palm, or is it better to focus on improving the sustainability standards of this high-yielding crop?

    We want to hear what you think.
    SaveTheOrangutans New Member New Member Posts:1
    25/06/2015 11:46:22
    Orangutan Land Trust, like most organisations engaged in the issue of palm oil, do NOT call for a boycott. As members of both the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and the Palm Oil Innovation Group, we believe the best way to minimise the environmental and social impacts associated with conventional palm oil is to encourage the industry to adhere to not only the Principles and Criteria of the RSPO, but to go beyond the bare minimum and demonstrate a commitment to "No-Deforestation" and "No-Conflict" CSPO, as defined by the Palm Oil Innovation Group.
    Consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, as well as consumers, need to differentiate between bog standard palm oil and responsible palm oil.
    A blanket boycott of all products containing palm oil is not only unlikely to make any difference to practices on the ground, but can also have perverse effects. (Lower demand leading to lower prices which would make palm oil a economically-attractive feedstock for biofuels, which would spell disaster for the remaining tropical forests of this planet.
    Everyone can agree that palm oil is here to stay, whether we like it or not. It is a commodity used in countless applications the world over, and there will always be a market. Given this, it is our duty to do all we can to ensure that the palm oil that IS produced is produced in the most sustainable way possible. Calling for a boycott of all palm oil in places like the EU or America would have negligible impact on the production of it, as the greatest take-up is from countries like India and China, who have less insistence for sustainability. Better we develop a demand for deforestation-free, Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, because only if there is a demand, will producers take the effort to move towards certification. And while no monoculture could ever be considered truly sustainable, we must consider that there is a spectrum of sustainability, and sustainable palm oil (for example that which is not grown as a result of forest clearance) is an infinitely better option than non-sustainable palm oil. We also must remember that palm oil is the highest-yielding edible oilseed crop, with yields nine times or more than that of other oilseeds like soya and rapeseed. If we were to replace palm oil with other oilseed crops in order to meet worldwide demand, then we will have to be prepared to have at least nine times as much land given over to grow these crops. And the social and environmental impacts will be multiplied.

    Second, because we had the luck to be born into a developed country, we need to acknowledge the right of lesser-developed countries to develop. We simply have no right to tell a country like Indonesia to forgo economic development, but we can help to steer that development in a sustainable direction. Many millions of people world-wide have employment in the palm oil industry, and although issues of low pay for some of these workers remain, more and more companies are becoming certified, thereby ensuring fair conditions and wages for their employees.

    While far from perfect, the RSPO is proving effective, as nearly 3.5 million hectares of oil palm has now been certified. The spirit of the RSPO is to have a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing the issues of sustainability, and as such, the RSPO is only as strong as the participation of these stakeholders. We encourage more consumer goods manufacturers and retailers to become members of the RSPO and to become part of this journey to more sustainable palm oil. Further, we encourage these companies to support the Palm Oil Innovation Group Charter and commit to deforestation-free CSPO.

    DebbieClarke New Member New Member Posts:1
    29/06/2015 08:22:26
    Having started from a profoundly anti-palm oil position, I and the wholefood grocery shop I work for have moved closer to the position above. Still think the RSPO needs to have far stricter and more robust criteria but boycotting doesn't seem like the answer. We have to encourage the industry to move in the right direction by applying constant scrutiny to how palm is produced. There are other certifications to look for e.g. organic, and now even fairtrade palm, we'd like to see more of this in our products if palm oil does have to be used.
    scillo New Member New Member Posts:8
    29/06/2015 18:30:37
    I am personally currently boycotting, since rapeseed oil farmed in the UK will come from existing agricultural land, and it is currently nearly impossible to find truly deforestration-free products. I emailed Wilko recently to ask about the glycerine in their cosmetics; they said it came from "sustainable" palm oil, but sustainable according to whom?

    The argument that falling palm oil prices would simply result in a switch in usage to biofuels doesn't work in terms of economics; if palm oil prices fall, it won't be as lucrative to chop down a forest.

    That said, palm oil is here to stay. Tougher standards, and holding large consumer goods firms to them through mandatory labelling, seems like a good start. Then, we need to focus on the demand drivers. (1) Accelerate a switch to genuine renewables for energy so biofuel demand dwindles; (2) educate people in rich countries about the true impact of excessive consumption is on the planet and use the right mix of taxes and incentives to change behaviour; (3) take urgent action to educate girls globally (ref the recent Obama/Attenborough "interview") to help bring our planet's population under control.
    Briansteedman New Member New Member Posts:3
    30/06/2015 08:31:45
    I try to avoid palm oil. I do this by restricting as much as I can products which are highly processed - this reduces the regularity of my visits to supermarkets considerably! I also add nothing new to my shopping list without researching the product. Having said all this, there are issues about many products beyond palm oil. Campaigning to restrict rather than end purchase seems to me appropriate, but it must be allied to attacking any instance of large land-clearing projects directly, and mentioning specifically those companies supporting such projects. We all know the 'usul suspects', and they must be opposed by campaigning widely and approaching shareholders.
    David Farrall New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 08:47:48
    Boycott, of course.

    To live truly sustainably is to live indigenously

    Butter is sourced from local, organic, pasture-fed cows and is "spreadable" when warmed.

    Ice cream is frozen cream from local, organic, pasture-fed cows flavoured with local fruit.

    And, of course, you can connect with your local organic small dairy farmer and make either for yourself in about 10 or 15 minutes from the cream he provides.

    If none of this is available then living sustainably means urgently fighting to create such a situation. Nothing else matters.

    It's a no-brainer.
    abrand New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 09:05:34
    I think it's crazy to maintain the RSPO standards and then "encourage companies to go beyond them". The basic standards must be raised and then enforced, rather than relying on companies' own good nature because ultimately they will mainly worry about their bottom line instead of the planet we all live on.

    I feel like there would be a case to raise the RSPO standards to whatever standards constitute the "above and beyond" actions of Nestle, and boycott until this has been done. Unfortunately for the average consumer, palm oil seems to have crept into basically everything and is almost impossible to avoid completely.

    Unfortunately I think that it is up to the regulators and governing bodies to be much tougher on companies when it comes to environmental and human rights concerns because the decisions are made high up, far away from the actual actions which do the damage, and low down, the ones doing the physical damage, are likely not in a position to have much choice because a job is a job.

    It's time to say enough is enough and prevent damaging practices, no excuses.

    Please RSPO, raise your standards to "above and beyond" because I don't trust the companies to do it of their own accord. Most won't unless they HAVE to.
    Cerimeri New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 09:26:48
    Campaigning for a better source heads straight to the root of the problem, without getting anyones feathers ruffled over a boycott of all palm oil goods. Fight with information rather than fear and anger, and come up with a solution(more environmentally responsible source) rather than just the same problem.
    brolgabird New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 10:01:06
    You might find this book useful:
    FLough New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 10:03:26
    Traidcraft are producing Fair Palm clean and Fair laundry liquid, soap, washing up liquid and multi-surface cleaner. These are good products and provide a focus for talking about the issues with others while providing an alternative to buy. They have resources on their website and really helpful leaflets which I have used in school/ church groups to educate people on the issues.
    In the long run we need to educate ourselves and others, label products better, campaign for better production methods everywhere and use less stuff.
    tcr147@gmail.com New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 10:14:26
    I can't help but feel that the position of Greenpeace and the like on this issue is a suspiciously weak and corporate friendly one. I agree that palm oil is indeed here to stay and does have unique qualities, for example, of yield, but in dismissing the value of a boycott and stressing the importance of encouraging sustainable alternatives these organisations seem to me to be missing the target they should be aiming for as surely both approaches need to be used in concert for there to be any real change. Corporations may seem all powerful and complex but at root they are incredibly simple organisms that exist purely to create profit for their shareholders. If they are shown that products containing 'good' palm oil sell while those containing the 'bad' stuff stay on the shelves then the direction of travel will be secured but it does need both as not all products will come with alternatives and without some stigma being attached to products containing 'bad' palm oil you'll simply be left with some sort of Aldi/Waitrose split where choice does exist.

    Personally I've been avoiding palm oil in all products for several years now and it really isn't that difficult, though I wouldn't claim 100% success. My actions are irrelevant in and of themselves to all but me I realise, but boycotts do start with the individual and it's a simple fact that if enough of us say that we do not accept deforestation for the sake of a jar of Nutella (love the stuff but wouldn't touch it and interestingly the nearest palm oil free version I've found was in Waitrose for a ridiculous price) then Nestle will be forced to make changes. A simple analysis perhaps but the reality is that no business carries on selling a product if no-one's buying, so the promotion of 'good' palm oil is essential but a boycott of the stuff that leads to post apocalyptic Moonscapes where once there was was forest and the heartbreaking aberration that is orphaned Orangutans is an equally important precursor.
    DavidT New Member New Member Posts:24
    30/06/2015 10:54:02
    I examine all products' ingredients list and avoid any containing palm oil, wherever it's from or however it's produced. It's a simple personal decision that sets an example and improves my life, though I appreciate it won't make any wider difference whatsoever.
    Freddy New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 11:32:15
    I do not buy any Palm oil containing products, no matter the sources. I believe that this is the only way for me to be sure to not contribute to the outrages deforestation. Sustainable palm oil, fair trade palm oil... I'm already confused on the standards of each label and the fact that some companies can exceed in those standard tells me that the standards are too low.

    I'm calling for a boycott at least until the "sustainable Palm oil" reaches the highest possible standards and is clear labelled and certified.

    withalj New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 12:31:42
    I find this really difficult to know. In general, I go along with those who ought to know, such as Greenpeace or the RainForest Alliance.

    Saying that, I would always choose local over a product with food miles, where possible, but to those who say butter is a good alternative, what about the CO2 effect of livestock farming - surely the biggest contributor of all. Not to mention the knock-on effect on the British countryside of the god that is cattle farming - badgers, for example.

    There are therefore a lot of things to consider and it's really difficult, so I don't know the answer. I will just carry on buying locally-sourced, organic, vegan products where possible and then add items from further away that are necessary, and try to make sure they are ethical. A definitive, well-researched guide would be invaluable.
    BSMiles New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 14:07:11
    I'm trying to be as vegan as possible, and am at home in my own shopping, so I am therefore already quite restricted to start with. If I boycott palm oil, as well as egg and dairy in products as well, it's a real problem. I am trying to favour products with sustainable palm oil, which Redwood and Frys do, but it's disappointing that "Vegetarians Choice" and "Linda McCartney" don't even use sustainable. I suggest that they need a bit more than a few emails from individuals to change things. They are meant to be relatively ethical, so may I suggest you contact them in the course of producing your Palm Oil issue, and give them some exposure?

    Barry Miles
    sfrancis16 New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 14:35:38
    I agree with several people above that a total boycott is impractical. I think a multi-pronged approach is best. I would suggest:
    Campaigning for the RSPO to raise, and enforce, its standards;
    Promoting fairtrade palm oil in the products where it's available, such as the Clean and Fair range;
    Pressuring the EU to tighten up and enforce import regulations;
    Researching the widely-available brands of products containing palm oil, and supermarket own-brands if you can find out where they come from, to identify who's using higher standards (I'm not buying Nestle even if they are more sustainable, but if they can do it, we know it can be done);
    Boycotting any companies that don't even meet RSPO standards.
    ruthstruth New Member New Member Posts:4
    30/06/2015 15:03:58
    So far on this thread we have several people who do boycott all palm oil, some from organisations who feel that cannot be their focus and they need to push companies to source as sustainably as possible, and various acknowledgements that a combination of approaches is necessary.

    In compiling the magazine we are looking at what is meant by 'sustainable' palm oil, expansion of the industry, resistance from campaigners and communities and the achievements and failures of the RSPO.

    We are getting contributions from the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US, the Rainforest Foundation in the UK, and will list actions you can take, from spotting derivatives and contacting companies, to finding out more...

    A range of biscuits, margarines and ice creams will be ranked according to their palm oil usage and policies.

    Keep the comments coming, it's good to hear from you.
    cwillmoth New Member New Member Posts:2
    30/06/2015 16:41:39
    As a consumer, I attempt to avoid palm oil (buy products occasionally, seek in preference no palm oil or sustainably sourced), but think that increasingly, consumer power is a good way to enforce change. The name and shame approach has worked really well on other products it seems, and many people in my sphere who do not consider themselves ethical shoppers are aware of the palm oil problem, so it's quite a hot topic at the moment I think...
    butlerwhite New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 16:42:01
    Demand more regulation and better sourcing.
    netnews New Member New Member Posts:1
    30/06/2015 21:31:53
    I've interviewed many people who are working to protect orangutans and their habitat and none of them advocate a boycott. Am attaching part of an article I wrote last year as I think these interviewees make very good points.

    To boycott or not to boycott

    There is a very vocal lobby, mostly in Australia and Europe, that demands a total boycott of the world’s most popular edible oil, but most of those working in forest and wildlife conservation say this is not a viable option.
    “The problem with a boycott is that the industry and consumers will want a substitute,” says Panut Hadisiswoyo, “and this may mean a sacrifice of the remaining forest.”
    Calen May-Tobin from the Union of Concerned Scientists, is one of the most ardent voices against a boycott. “The solution isn’t to boycott palm oil, but rather to demand that companies use and produce palm oil that is deforestation- and peat-free.”
    The problem, May-Tobin says, isn’t with palm oil itself. The problems arise, when forests and peatlands are converted to plantations. “This leads to loss of habitat and millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.”
    There are, May-Tobin argues, many positive things about oil palms. They are more productive and store more carbon than any other vegetable oil crop and the typical rotation for an oil palm plantation is 25 years. “To replace all palm oil on the global market with another oil would take up between five and eight times as much land.”
    May-Tobin, who conducts research on palm-related deforestation and how to reduce the land-use carbon footprint of the palm oil industry, says a decrease in demand for palm oil from one company or country won’t mean an overall decrease in palm oil demand.
    If customers in the US stopped buying palm oil, another oil would have to be imported to meet vegetable oil demand, he says, and this would be a vicious circle. “If the US bought more canola oil, another country would be buying less and would need to find another oil to meet its demand. It would most likely buy the cheapest vegetable oil on the market: palm oil.”
    Desilets agrees that a boycott is not the answer. “Making no distinction between conventional and deforestation-free oil will not change how the oil is produced for the billions of people who consume it daily.”
    Oil palm, Desilets says, can be grown sustainably in areas without forests or peat. “The World Resources Institute has demonstrated that there is more than sufficient land like this available, for example in Borneo, to meet the projected increased demand. In Borneo alone, some 14 million hectares of unforested land could be suitable for expansion, and this far exceeds the next 50 years’ production or expansion. There is also a lot of unforested land in peninsular Malaysia that could be used.”
    “The argument that you must clear forest in order to expand and grow economically is wrong, especially in a place like Borneo.”
    The WRI and SEKALA, an Indonesia-based consulting company that specializes in forest governance, have developed an online application called the Sustainability Mapper, which enables users to identify potentially suitable sites for sustainable palm oil production.

    Users can replicate or customize the desktop portion of a method developed under the WRI’s Palm Oil Timber Carbon Offset (POTICO) project. Users can identify potentially suitable areas for sustainable palm oil in Indonesia, and identify priority sites for further investigation in the field.
    The POTICO project aims – by organising land exchange – to redirect oil palm plantation projects originally planned for forests to 500,000 hectares of degraded land. The areas that were originally earmarked for oil palm plantations are to be conserved or exploited to produce Forest Stewardship Council certified wood. The project is now in a transition state as the WRI incorporates some of its older tools into Global Forest Watch.

    The WRI has also produced a Forest Cover Analyzer, with which users can assess forest cover change and the risks related to sustainable palm oil production in Kalimantan, Indonesia.

    Users can find the answers to three basic questions:
    • Where and when has forest cover change occurred?
    • What is the current extent of forest and peatland?
    • How is the area legally classified according to the Ministry of Forestry?
    The WRI says the Indonesian government has made encouraging decisions. “It has voluntarily committed to a minimum 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and developed a strategy for land use and forestry emissions, extended a moratorium on new clearing of primary forests and peat lands from 2 to 4 years (2013-2015), and increasingly recognised the rights of forest communities and indigenous peoples.”
    The country needs to balance its environmental and social goals, the WRI says. “Indonesia is the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, mainly due to the conversion of its forests and carbon-rich peatlands. These shifts in land use have ecological and social consequences, as Indonesia’s forests are home to thousands of plant and animal species, and 50-60 million Indonesians depend directly on the forests for their livelihoods.”
    Desilets says that only by demanding that the palm oil used, especially in global brands, is deforestation-free will we start to see some benefit to forests and biodiversity. She believes that consumer pressure on Western buyers of palm oil can influence the growers and transform the market. The balance towards sustainability has finally started to tip, she says.
    Maximum yields for oil palm are as much as twenty times greater than that of the maximum yield for soya, Desilets points out. If producers operating in tropical regions like Indonesia and Malaysia were compelled to switch to another oilseed crop, the deforestation could be twenty times more than it is with oil palm.
    “If people boycott products containing palm oil, the company in question won’t see statistics showing exactly why that product was rejected. People need to go to manufacturers and retailers and ask questions about sourcing: where the palm oil comes from, whether it is CSPO, and whether it is deforestation- and conflict-free. If you are just not buying, the message doesn’t get to the right department.”
    Dellatore would agree. He says that, even if it were possible, a boycott would be ineffective. It is, he says, a red herring that might make people feel better, but won’t change anything.
    Poynton says he is no defender of palm oil, but it is not about to go away. “So we’d better work hard to promote the things that are good about it while dealing in a really practical and sensible way with the things that are causing the problems.
    “Just saying no to palm oil is nonsensical. Even if no one in Europe ever buys palm oil again, the Chinese and the Indians need cheap food products.”
    In their recent book, Alain Rival and Patrice Levang also say it makes little sense to boycott palm oil if, in replacing it, you convert eight times more forest into soybean and sunflower fields.
    “This happens to be one of the favourite arguments of the palm oil industry: because yields of oil palm are eight times higher than those of soybean, we can reduce the surface area which needs to be deforested. But the argument is misleading – neither soybean nor oil palm require deforestation.”
    Shayne McGrath also says a boycott is not a viable option, but adds that “at least a segment of the world market is definitely ready to receive palm oil that is truly traceable, and, over time, one would expect that market segment to increase”.
    Palm oil is just a crop, McGrath says. “It’s not evil. Palm oil didn’t do anything. It’s humans and their agricultural practices that have created the problems that have tarnished the palm oil brand.”
    Desilets says everyone has a part to play in ensuring sustainable solutions, not just the growers. “Everyone in the supply chain has a role, as do the governments, the financial institutions, and the consumers.”
    Responsibly produced palm oil is possible, she says. “Indeed, it is imperative, given the growing global population that will continue to put more and more pressure on our planet.”

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