Unsold Sustainable Palm Oil Prompts WWF to Grade Buyers

by | May 12, 2009

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forestWith new figures showing that only 1 percent, or about 15,000 tons, of sustainable palm oil available on the market is being purchased, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says it will implement a buyer’s scorecard over the next six months that will indicate whether or not the companies have fulfilled their commitments to purchase it.

The Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard will rank the commitments and actions of major global retailers, manufacturers and traders that buy palm oil. The scores are meant to help consumers evaluate the performance of these companies and encourage the companies to better support the use of certified sustainable palm oil, says WWF.

According to WWF, approximately 1.3 million tons of certified sustainable palm oil has been produced but less than 15,000 tons have been sold, which could undermine sustainability efforts and threaten the remaining tropical forests of Southeast Asia and other forests set to grow oil palm.

Palm oil is used in a variety of foods including margarine, cooking oil, chips, cakes, biscuits and pastries and palm oil derivatives are also found in cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and detergents. Rapid increases in palm oil production has caused extensive land clearing in places like Borneo and Sumatra, resulting in the loss of habitat for endangered species and contributing to climate change, according to WWF.

WWF helped set up the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as an international body in 2002 to develop sustainability standards to help protect tropical forests. Certified sustainable palm oil, available since November 2008, provides assurance that tropical forests have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during production.

Companies like Unilever plan to exclusively use palm oil certified by the RSPO for its beauty products by 2015.

Certification can add a premium of around $50 a ton to palm oil in the wholesale market, reports Reuters. Conventional palm oil sells for about $750 a ton.

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