Sunday, 11 February 2007


The palm oil industry poses a dilemma. Whilst is undeniably provides the people and governments with an invaluable source of revenue for development, the substantial environmental and social costs cannot be ignored. A boycott of palm oil products in Europe and elsewhere would not only be unjust but also unproductive, no doubt increasing pressure on natural resources including timber to replace lost income. (Furthermore, in the UK it is often impossible to identify which products contain palm oil, so if it is named as a product this company is probably investing more effort in securing a responsible source for good, sustainable palm oil.) In Indonesia there are millions of hectares of degraded land standing empty and unused – the only solution is to provide palm oil suppliers with an incentive to establish plantations on these areas of already un-forested land rather than seeking out forested areas in order to cut costs by selling the timber.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an alliance of palm oil producers, processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) established in order to develop the principles and criteria of sustainable palm oil, and facilitate the development of sustainable palm oil production. The Orangutan Film Protection Project is part of the broader Ape Alliance Palm Oil Working Group (ApAl POWG) which has worked to push for responsibility from the UK retail sector and to support the goals and objectives of the RSPO. As a result of our work and the work of the ApAl POWG partners we have seen a huge shift in the UK retail sector with all major supermarkets now belonging to the RSPO. This is a great step forward, and is illustrative of the positive benefits of the collaborative approach of the RSPO, where industry representatives and environmental and social NGOs all get a voice.

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