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Transforming the global palm oil industry to make sustainability the norm


European Director of Outreach & Engagement RSPO, Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia


RSPO is a multi-stakeholder association founded to provide a sustainable solution in palm oil cultivation. Founded in 2004, its goal is to transform the market to make sustainable palm oil the norm in the market. Although the path is twisty and challenging, the RSPO leads the way to ensure sustainability in the industry, and is widening its geographical and industry horizons as well. Latin America is the new frontier of palm oil sustainability as producing region – along with considerable progress made in South East Asia – and new uptake industries, such as cosmetics and animal feed, are raising more and more awareness on these issues. As of today, the 19% of the global production is certified sustainable.

Use of palm oil in human nutrition dates back 10,000 years. In the last decades, oil palm cultivation has spread from subsistence production for the local communities / markets of producing countries to an industrial commodity that is traded worldwide. This is both due to trade liberalizations and to a growing global demand of edible fats.

Oil palm is a very high yielding crop and today accounts for almost 40% of world consumption of oils and vegetal fats (1). Its yield exceeds other oleaginous crops such as rapeseed, sunflower and soybean by four to ten times, which is of great value when faced with global demand for fats and oils that is growing at a rate of approximately 5% per year (2).

Unfortunately, oil palm plantations extension has caused several environmental and social problems in producing countries, Indonesia and Malaysia above all: according to Rainforest (4), Indonesia lost from 1990 to 2005 28 million hectares of woodland (of which 21 of primary forests), and the 25,6% of its forests and woodland habitat. Malaysia (5) has also had in the same period a loss of 1.5 million hectares of forests (6,6% of the o ...

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