The world’s largest sustainable palm oil body reached a major milestone last week in its on-going efforts to halt deforestation and bring sustainable palm oil to market – the millionth hectare of plantations has just been certified, an area roughly equivalent in size to the nation of Jamaica.
The result comes as WWF prepares its second instalment of the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard, which tracks the progress of major brands on their commitments and actions on buying and using sustainable palm.
Plantations owned by Brazil-based Agropalma, a leading producer of palm oil in South America, recently achieved certification against the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard, pushing the area of certified palm oil plantations past the 1 million hectare mark. That’s equal to about 1.5 million football pitches and is more than 6,000 times the size of Greater London.
The Agropalma certification brings the volume of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil close to 5 million tonnes, which represents around10% of the world’s total palm oil production.
WWF worked with a group of NGOs and the palm oil industry to set up the RSPO in 2003. Certified sustainable palm oil has been available since November 2008, and provides assurance that valuable tropical forests have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during the production of the palm oil.
The companies that own certified plantations have also agreed to avoid converting valuable forests when expanding their growing areas and have committed to time-bound plans for having all their estates certified.
“Passing the 1 million hectares mark is a crucial milestone for the growers. But sadly, half of all sustainable palm oil they produce is still not being bought by palm oil users, meaning there’s a lot of work to be done by retailers and manufacturers to match the efforts of those growers,” said Adam Harrison, Senior Policy Officer for WWF. “It is imperative that all the commitments we have seen from retailers and brands recently are now translated into immediate action, so that producers have an incentive to stay with the certification programme.”
“Despite good progress from those growers that have been certified there are still many RSPO growers that are dragging their heels on the certification process. A stronger signal is needed from the market so that we can get these producers on the path toward sustainability,” Harrison said.
To help balance the supply and demand for sustainable palm oil WWF will issue the second instalment of the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard in November 2011. The first Scorecard, issued in 2009 has been credited with boosting the market for certified sustainable palm oil.
“The timing is right for WWF to make a new assessment of buyer progress. There have been many encouraging commitments from major retailers and brands since 2009, so this is an opportunity to see what’s really been accomplished. The scorecard will recognize leading companies and also highlight where more progress is needed,” Harrison added.