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Myths of the Round Table: Just because they’re a member doesn’t mean they’re a knight

Hello friends!

I really hope this is what RSPO meetings look like

If you’ve been reading my most recent posts, you may have noticed that I’ve been trying to figure out who to trust in determining what contains Certified Sustainable Palm Oil, and what does not. Well I don’t know if it’s fate or serendipity or just plain luck, but something seems to be trying to help me along.
Whilst casually trawling through my twitter feed, I noticed a tweet posted by the Ethical Consumer Guide. It linked me to an article published on Rainforest Action Network titled The Great RSPO Membership Myth: Why Buying from RSPO Members Is Meaningless.
Although published in March 2011, this article cleared up a lot of things for me. Not only does it highlight the major difference between those who use Certified sustainable palm oil, and those who are members of the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil. It seems like companies, such as Wilmar, are using this to appear environmentally credible.

Here’s a letter written by the Rainforst Action Network to the CEO of Girl Scout Cookies America, who has been using their membership to gain environmental credibility.

Although Girl Scout cookie bakers have RSPO membership, RSPO membership does not provide any assurance that palm oil supplied by member companies is sustainable. Member companies have been documented clearing forest, peatland and critical wildlife habitat while ignoring human rights — all of which are prohibited in the RSPO principles and criteria. In essence RSPO membership does not ensure that deforestation, orangutan extinction, and climate change are not found in Girl Scout cookies.

Who would have thought those bite sized treats distributed by overly adorable girls abounding with freckles and pigtales and good intentions, could be causing so much harm!

This inspired me to have a look at some of the companies on my Products List, and try to figure out if they’re talking the talk.
Wilmar: Member of the RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Fonterra: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Kraft: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Mars: Member of RSPO. Doesn’t use CSPO

Goodman Fielder: Member of the RSPO. committing to be using CSPO by 2015

Arnott’s Australia: Member of RSPO.  ommitting to be using CSPO by 2015

Unilever: Member of RSPO.  ommitting to using CSPO by 2015

Well, I certainly won’t be taking ‘But we’re members of the Round Table’ without the appropriate grain of salt.

Although this has made me a lot less confused, it is still a little worrying that the RSPO allows members that are still destroying rainforest and causing the deaths of thousands of Orangs. I know it is important in this kind of organisation to have members from all sides of the industry, but surely companies that are illegally logging protected forests, such as Wilmar, or are using their membership status to try and confuse consumers into thinking they are ethically sourcing palm oil, should not have a place at the table.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you think the RSPO should be more strict about who they give membership to?

I have since been informed that both Mars and Kraft have sustainable palm oil plans in place, and will hopefully reach their goals of using 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

I did a little more research and found this statement made by Mars. Although they do talk a lot about buying palm oil off members, which we know to be irrelevant if it isn’t certified, at least they have acknowledged this too. Let’s hope they can walk the walk.

We use only 0.2 percent of global palm oil supplies . However, it is present in many of our products, and we are committed to sourcing it more sustainably.

Mars is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a nonprofit membership organization that promotes the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. Through the RSPO, we are working to reduce the impacts of palm oil production and address concerns about the industry. While some environmental organizations have questioned the effectiveness of the RSPO, it is the only body that brings together all the relevant industry players, and we are committed to helping it create significant and lasting long-term change.

Currently, we only source palm oil from other RSPO members, although their product is not necessarily certified. We have begun purchasing certified palm oil for our European business and have set a target to use only 100-percent RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 

Kraft also appears to be implementing changes to its palm oil supply chain; the Kraft Board has been requested by the shareholders to compile a sustainability report by December 2012. Hopefully, all of the following factors that were lacking from the current sustainability policy will be met.

• A company-wide policy on deforestation
• The percentage of purchases of Palm Oil, beef, soya, sugar and paper that are sustainably sourced, with clear goals for each commodity
• Results of audits to ensure that suppliers are in compliance with Kraft’s forestry goals  
• Identifying certification systems and programs that the company will use to ensure sustainable sourcing of each of these commodities. 
We shall see.

Thankyou Andy for pointing this out to me! This is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog, to learn these things and to keep the discussion going.

2 responses »

  1. You are right to highlight the need to confirm the presence of cspo this s done by ensuring the company making your goods are certified and asking about the product if it has no on pack claim.
    You are wrong about Kraft and Mars who are working hard to gain certification.


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