Banning palm oil is not the solution - sustainable palm oil is! - EPOA response to ‘Iceland’s ban on palm oil

Posted on: April 12, 2018

In view of the numerous and impressive achievements on sustainable palm oil throughout the supply chain, EPOA is surprised to learn about the initiative by the UK retailer ‘Iceland’ to remove palm oil from their privately owned brands. The signal provided by ‘Iceland’ to ban palm oil is counterproductive to the overall market conversion towards more sustainable palm oil.

The European palm oil alliance (EPOA), involving palm oil growers and refiners, would like to emphasize that we share concerns on deforestation and biodiversity. Not only do we share the concerns, we have also worked tirelessly to create and implement the change towards sustainable palm oil production and uptake in Europe throughout the food supply chain. In 2016 69% of palm oil imported for food into European refineries was certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). And 60% of the palm oil used for food in Europe was estimated to be CSPO, with almost all palm oil entering the UK being sustainably produced.

A ban will raise other environmentally devastating issues through its alternatives. In fact according to a 2016 World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report, replacing palm oil with other fats and oils is shifting the problem and may even make it worse. WWF, Conservation international, Greenpeace and other NGOs have all publicly stated that “banning palm oil is no solution”. Firstly, any alternative vegetable oil would require more land to produce. And secondly, moving away from palm oil will make current palm oil growers lose the incentive to create the change that is needed on the ground to help preserve the rainforest and protect species that are on the brink of extinction.

Iceland should, instead of banning palm oil, be working with the rest of the supply chain on its sustainability standards to ensure the use of robust and continuously improving agricultural practices. As indicated by Stefano Savi, Global Outreach & Engagement Director from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in their media response:

“We fully share Iceland’s concerns about the environmental impact of palm oil, but we do not agree with the solutions they are adopting. Before getting rid of palm oil, we should ask ourselves: what is the impact of the alternatives? We should let consumers know that palm trees produce 4 to 10 times more oil per hectare than any other oil crop. Therefore eliminating palm oil might lead to the use of more land with higher risks of deforestation. If Iceland want to guarantee that their oils and fats sourcing is not causing rainforest destruction, they should work with the rest of the supply chain to promote the use of sustainable standards, such as RSPO, with a view to improve the sustainability of the entire market”.

At EPOA we believe that in the face of environmental or social problems related to palm oil, we should cooperate throughout the supply chain to solve those problems, keeping in mind the bigger picture. Currently 2.3% of global deforestation is linked to palm oil production. Through numerous industry commitments the food industry in Europe has started to work together in different initiatives to improve sustainability of all agro commodities and halt deforestation of primary forests.

Simply banning palm oil is providing the wrong signal. If Iceland would like to guarantee their consumers that there is no link to deforestation, we invite them to work together to make sustainable palm oil a reality and effectively halting deforestation related to palm oil. Not move away.

Banning palm oil is not the solution. Sustainable palm oil is.