Aiming for 100% Sustainable Palm Oil in Europe

Minister Ploumen (Ministry of International Trade and Development Cooperation) has expressed her support for the ambition of European Sustainable Palm Oil (ESPO), an initiative of The Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry (MVO), and IDH. ‘The Netherlands are ahead in their achievements: by the end of this year we hope to have switched to 100% sustainable palm oil. It is time that other European countries also progress in making their supply chains more sustainable’, said the Minister last February.

In the longer term, the Minister aims to achieve 100% sustainable palm oil worldwide. ‘Palm oil import in Europe is 14% of the international palm oil import. When we reach the 100% goal here, we may very well start a worldwide race to the top’. The Minister strives for alliances with other major users of palm oil such as China and India, to jointly work towards a healthier environment and better social conditions within the palm oil sector.

Palm oil is the most produced and traded vegetable oil in the world; it is an important ingredient for food, feed and fuel or oleo chemical products. Almost
all palm oil imported in Europe is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia. In these
countries, the production of palm oil is one of the major deforesters. Since
2000, the production of palm oil has doubled and it is expected to increase
even more in the near future, as worldwide demand for vegetable oils is
growing. If not carefully managed, increased production  could come at the
expense of forests and biodiversity and could cause social conflict.

In the Netherlands trade and industry have almost completely switched to sustainable palm oil in the last five years. Initiatives for sustainable palm oil have also been established in other European countries; the UK, Belgium, Germany, France, Sweden and Denmark. More countries such as Italy, Spain and Poland are on their way to join; together these countries form the largest part of the demand side. ESPO currently works on strengthening these cross-country initiatives on sustainable palm oil. It also provides a platform for exchanging practices to increase the uptake of sustainable palm oil on an European level, such as implementing traceability and monitoring systems.

Apart from working with the national palm oil initiatives, ESPO collaborates with
organizations such as The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), aiming to make sustainable palm oil the norm and helping farmers to make the
transition to sustainable palm oil.