16 Apr 21 | Opinion
Collaboration is crucial to breaking the link between palm oil and deforestation says Sime Darby’s Simon Lord, speaking to Tom Idle
It does. We still haven’t broken the link between palm oil and deforestation., So, together with five palm oil producers in Malaysia, as well as the likes of Wilmar, we helped to form the Sustainable Palm Oil Manifesto (SPOM). As part of this, we have committed to go beyond RSPO and have set up a high carbon stock (HCS) study* which seeks the views of 50 independent scientists.
Yes, it should be a sovereign right for national governments to choose what happens. But it’s also a sovereign right of responsible producers to decline. We currently sit in the middle of this very uncomfortable situation.
Is it hard pushing tough policies through internally? Is there enough value attached to doing the right thing?
Just 20% of palm oil is certified as being sustainability. But if the other 80% is attracting a better price it is awfully hard to persuade the 20% to go even further and push the envelope.
RSPO gives you that verification and helps you to look at a large breadth of sustainability issues. Bodies like RSPO are absolutely vital. To use a military analogy, if RSPO is the infantry, you also really need the cavalry – the progressive companies – to keep pushing for change.
NGOs have a tremendous role to play. Just look at what happened when the French environment minister told people to stop buying Nutella because its parent company Ferrero was cutting down trees. Greenpeace came out in its defence, pointing to Ferrero’s sustainable deforestation policies and its membership of the Palm Oil Innovation Group.
Well, there are tens of hundreds of producers, and tens of thousands of palm oil users. But most palm oil passes through the hands of refiners, and there’s only a few of them. Next up is to bring those refiners together to make sure they stick to the same high sustainable ideals – that would be a great move forward.
*Click here for more on the debate about differing HCS approaches.