Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil. It is derived from the from the mesocarp, or the reddish pulp of the palm oil fruit. Palm oil is reddish in colour, mainly due to the high beta-carotene content. It is one of the few highly saturated vegetable fats and it is semisolid at room temperature.
Sustainable Palm Oil
There is no doubt that the irresponsible oil palm cultivation has a negative environment and social impact. With that being said, more than 60 million tonnes of palm oil were consumed in 2015 and consumption is expected to go up to 240 million tonnes by 2050 due to the growing population. There are many who campaign to ban the use of palm oil, in favour of other type of crops. However, such measures would likely create similar, if not greater challenges to the environment as well as local communities. Let us review why is palm oil so popular in the first place, the impact of palm oil farming on the environment, why is it hard to ban the use of palm oil and why sustainable palm oil would be a better strategy in the long run compared to the outright ban of palm oil.
Why Use Palm Oil?
Palm oil is widely used in many of the products readily available in the supermarket such as cosmetics, chocolates, soaps, ice cream, cooking oil and so on... There are several reasons why palm oil is so popular:
High melting point - Palm oil is semi solid in room temperature. It has a variety of uses from baking products and spreads to frying. Although animal fats have similar quality, it is very costly to produce compared to palm oil.
It has a natural preservative effect - This will help extend the shelf life of food naturally.
Highest yielding vegetable oil crop - Oil palm yields 4 - 10 times more oil per hectare than other crops. This makes it very efficient and hence the cheapest vegetable oil in the market.
Taste and texture - Smooth, creamy and odourless, hence palm oil suits many different recipes, in particular baked goods
What Is The Impact Of Palm Oil Farming On The Environment?
In certain regions, palm oil farming has caused deforestation. In other words, land that was once predominantly covered by primary forest (forests of native tree species, where there are no clearly visible indications of human activities and the ecological processes are not significantly disturbed) or which housed protected species as well as biodiversity, was cleared so that men can convert it into palm oil plantations.
There are also some palm oil plantations that were developed without consulting or getting permission from the local communities over the use of their land. There were some instances where local communities were forcibly being displaced from their land. To add on to the list, violations of workers' rights in terms of fair payment and safe working environment as well as other malpractices have also occurred.
Even with the widespread of malpractices in the palm oil industry, a good number of companies in the palm oil industry have began to adopt more sustainable practices. Thus, this will result in an increasing amount of palm oil in our products that have been produced and sourced in a sustainable manner.
Why Is It Difficult to Ban The Use Of Palm Oil
Huge consumer demand - Even if palm oil is banned in certain countries, the palm producers would simply export it to countries where environmental and sustainable issue is not the priority since there is a huge demand for palm oil around the globe.
Environmental degradation - Producing palm oil uses less energy, fertiliser as well as pesticides compared to other crops. Therefore, by switching to alternate crops such as soybean or rapeseed, it could potentially cause more deforestation, higher carbon footprint as well as the use of more pesticides. All these will cause more harm to the environment.
Poverty Reduction - The palm oil industry plays a very important role in helping to reduce poverty in palm producing countries. Banning the use of palm oil would have a devastating effect on the farmers.
Consumer and manufacturer preference - Palm oil is smooth, creamy and odourless. It is not feasible to replace palm oil as an ingredient in the products as other oils do not have similar taste and texture as palm oil.
Why Sustainable Palm Oil
The RSPO has developed a set of environmental as well as social criteria that companies must comply in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Palm oil can only be sustainable if it:
Fulfills increasing global food demand.
Supports affordable food prices.
Supports poverty reduction.
Safeguards social interests, communities and workers
Protects the environment and wildlife.
If these criteria are applied properly by companies producing palm oil, it will definitely help to minimise the negative impact of palm oil production on the environment and local communities. Besides that, it will also help to realise potential benefits in terms of conservation, poverty reduction, protecting indigenous communities, ensuring fair labour practices and finally, empowering customers to make an informed choice.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
The RSPO seeks to advance the production, procurement, finance and use of sustainable palm oil products. They develop, implement, verify and periodically review credible global standards for the entire supply chain and actively monitor the economic, environmental and social impacts of the uptake of sustainable palm oil in the market. Their activities engage stakeholders throughout the supply chain, including governments and consumers.
The RSPO began as an informal cooperation between several multinational companies and the WWF. An Organising Committee was created in January 2003 to coordinate the inaugural Roundtable meeting in Kuala Lumpur, and to make preparations for the formal establishment of the RSPO. The RSPO was legally established on 8 April 2004 under Article 60 of the Swiss Civil Code.
Certified Sustainable Palm Oil
The RSPO provides a global certification system for certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel oil (CSPK). The certificate standard is based on the RSPO Principles & Criteria (P&C), which were developed in 2005 and revised in 2013.
The P&C comprised of 8 core principles for the production of sustainable palm oil. Each P&C consist of supporting guidelines as well as indicators that define how the principle must be met in order to receive the certification. Once certified, growers are then annually audited against the P&C to demonstrate continued compliance.
In addition to the P&C, the RSPO certification system encompasses a rigorous supply chain certification procedure to ensure that the CSPO reaches the end user.
The 8 Principles of Sustainable Palm Oil Production
Commitment to Transparency
Compliance with applicable laws and regulations
Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
Responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills
Responsible development of new plantings
Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity
To obtain RSPO certification, oil palm plantations and mills must comply with all eight core principles as set out in the P&C. Certified growers then undergo an annual surveillance audit and re-certification audit every five years by an accredited certification body (CB).
Why Is This Important? From the palm oil plantation to its use as an ingredient in the end product in retail shops, the supply chain of palm oil is very complicated. In order to ensure the credibility of sustainable claim at the end of the supply chain, all companies and organisation involved that take legal ownership and physically handle RSPO certified sustainable palm oil products need to be supply chain certified.
Influx Lipids Is Committed to Sustainable Palm Oil
Influx Lipids specialises in design, specification and manufacturing of fat products made from palm oil to help farmers increase yield. We are committed towards sustainable palm oil and it is our priority to improve and adept in ensuring responsible sourcing of raw materials for the production of our bypass fat and fat products. As of now, all our raw materials are sourced from only RSPO certified members and we are continuously innovating to ensure the way we source our materials do not contribute to the deforestation and environmental degradation.