No palm oil is no solution – sustainable palm oil is

In Europe, there is a growing negative image of palm oil which is leading towards a movement to boycott palm oil instead of using sustainable palm oil.

ESPO, IDH’s European Sustainable Palm Oil project (established together with MVO, the Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry) is working in Europe with companies, sector organizations and governments to safeguard we don’t move away from palm oil but that we move towards 100% sustainable palm oil. It is therefore positive to see the backing of this by the UN and NGOs like Greenpeace, WWF Germany and Conservation International.

Palm oil plays an important role in creating sustainable food. Replacing palm oil with other fats or oils is no solution to tackle environmental or health issues and negatively impacts food product properties.

During the 2016 edition of the European Palm Oil Conference, participants underlined the WWF Germany statement that “switching from palm oil to other oils is no solution to tackle environmental degradation caused by unsustainable palm oil production.” WWF is clear that the only sustainable alternative to palm oil is credibly certified sustainable palm oil. Using other oils or fats is often worse for the environment: they need more land and so can drive even more loss of valuable habitats for wildlife like forests, savannahs and grasslands.

At the conference, Annisa Rahmawati from Greenpeace stated that “boycotting does not solve the problem. Palm oil can and must be produced in a responsible way and not linked to destruction of forests and peatlands as well as social conflicts. The Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) is the premium standard and our journey towards deforestation free palm oil”. However, Greenpeace stresses “that there are still many things need to be done to deliver progress on the ground. That is why industry wide action to tackle deforestation is needed, especially excluding non-responsible business practices.”

In November, a United Nations Report, called the Palm Oil Paradox, recognizes that boycotts of palm oil are unlikely to achieve success. Among the report’s key recommendations are the placement of “certified” sustainable oil palm plantations close to great ape habitats in order to minimize irresponsible production and the designation of “no-go” zones set aside for priority ape populations.

In the coming year, ESPO will continue to raise more awareness and support for sustainable palm oil, and spread the message that there are currently no alternative oils or fats that can replace the volumes of palm oil used in food and that those alternatives will not solve environmental issues.