Why it's never been more important to choose sustainable palm oil

Why it's never been more important to choose sustainable palm oil

#Conservation, #Act for the Wild

Posted on 16th November 2018 by Media Relations


BY NOW YOU MAY HAVE SEEN THE UK supermarket chain Iceland’s Christmas ad 'Say hello to Rang-tan' that is causing controversy after it was banned for being too political.

Whether or not it should be on the TV for Christmas is one issue, but the greater challenge is its misleading message at the end.

Portraying a young orang-utan wanting to stay with a young girl as it has lost its home due to deforestation caused by humans, it tugs at the heart strings. In all of the right ways it showcases an issue that definitely needs our attention. However, the ad itself ends with a statement from Iceland that all palm oil is bad and as such, they will be removing it from their own-brand products.

If only it were that simple.

Whilst it is the overly simplistic message about ‘bans’ that always manage to get the headlines, the reality is that the future of orang-utans, tigers and all of the other wildlife that are impacted by palm oil depends on an actual solution.

There is no doubt that wildlife, like Rang-tan, need us now more than ever. The latest edition of the WWF Living Planet report is alarming to say the least. Populations of the world’s mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% in the last 40 years.

There is also no doubt that rainforests around the world have experienced devastating losses, cleared to make way for ever-expanding unsustainable oil palm plantations, particularly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Agriculture for cash crops like oil palm, sugarcane and soybean has seen over 40% of the planet’s once forested land cleared.

Overexploitation and agriculture are the key drivers of species decline – both driven by spiralling and runaway human consumption. 

But, humans are not going anywhere, and we rely heavily on vegetable oil in our everyday lives.

In June 2018, the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) released the Palm Oil and Biodiversity report, which provides an objective analysis of palm oil impacts on global biodiversity and possible solutions. The report found that given other oil crops require up to nine times as much land to produce than palm oil, its replacement would significantly increase the total land area used for vegetable oil production to meet global demand.

We all know the importance of using environmentally-sustainable products and palm oil is no different. The oil itself is not the problem – the problem lies with how and where it has been produced.

If it’s grown sustainably, palm oil production can benefit local communities, and help to protect valuable species and forests. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is oil that comes from plantations that have been independently certified as meeting the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

This advert comes just in time for the RSPO annual meeting in Malaysia, which will focus on a renewed commitment to achieve market transformation towards sustainable palm oil.

This meeting will also vote on the review of the Principles and Criteria that underpin the certification, with the proposal marking the most significant changes in a decade in regards to protecting forests and wildlife in South East Asia.

The 2018 review has seen a remarkable step forward in strengthening the certification across a number of key areas, with stronger protection of forests that have high conservation value and are important for holding carbon. Responsible production must now be:

  • free from deforestation
  • free from expansion and unsustainable replanting on peat
  • free from exploitation
  • free from the use of fire
  • providing additional focus on transparent reporting and outcome monitoring, including metrics such as GHG emissions, energy use, water use per Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) tonne, lost time accident metrics, number of workers (including gender ratio and local to migrant worker ratio), training, living wages, land tenure and compensation paid per hectare.

As a member of the RSPO, Taronga will be voting yes to adopt this strengthened sustainability standard.

Our vision is that 100% of all products in Australia are deforestation-free.

We congratulate the Australian companies that already using 100% Certified and Sustainable Palm Oil. Over 75,000 emails have been sent to companies through Taronga’s Tiger Trek experience to express this thanks.

We will continue to work with retailers and manufacturers across Australia to encourage their transition to a fully sustainable palm oil supply chain (100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil) by 2020.

Iceland took the easiest way out of a complex issue. If the brilliant advert simply focussed on using responsibly sourced palm oil, it could have been a game changer. We need to face up to the challenge if we are going to provide a future for Rang-tan and her young friend.