EPOC 2017: European food industry used 60% certified sustainable palm oil

Posted on: November 23, 2017

"We have to show how we are all (NGOs, governments and industry) committed to sustainable palm oil production by telling the good stories!"

At the 5th annual European Palm Oil Conference in Brussels delegates from industry, government and NGOs discussed progress on sustainable palm oil production and uptake, and shared practical examples on progress.

The European debate about the sustainability of the palm oil used in our food, continues to increase in intensity. In 2017, the European Parliament and Commission have studied the palm oil supply chain, which gives rise to questions about what’s practically being done to make progress. Many of these questions were answered at the 2017 European Palm Oil conference.

Progress towards 100% sustainable palm oil in Europe by 2020
New data from The European Sustainable Palm Oil (ESPO)  showed that significant progress has been made. On behalf of all industry partners, Joost Oorthuizen, CEO of IDH the sustainable initiative, revealed the ESPO monitoring study which showed that:

  • 69% of the palm oil imported for food into European refineries was certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in 2016.
  • 60% of the palm oil used for food in Europe was estimated to be certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in 2016.

The European palm oil supply chain is making good progress towards its “100% sustainable palm oil in Europe by 2020” commitment. However, the figures show that there is still a gap between the imported volume of CSPO and the actual uptake for CSPO by the food industry. The next step is to increase the uptake of imported CSPO into Europe. All stakeholders in the supply chain need to work together and commit to increase the use of sustainable palm oil.

To reach 100% fully sustainable palm oil in Europe, attendees called for more collaboration in the supply chain and challenged government representatives to develop food policies that build on existing initiatives and that are guided by the framework and commitments of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.  

Philippo Veglio from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, showed how industry can profit in their business model by incorporating sustainability in return on investment. Using the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a framework was useful in showing the conference how progress is already being made, and how industry action contributes towards these shared global objectives. Panellists agreed that transforming the palm oil supply chain to ensure sustainability helps achieve many of the SDGs, such as:

Goal number 1:
Eliminate poverty. Palm oil food supply chain is active across many goals but the most obvious contributions are Goal 1, where the supply chain helps to eliminate poverty in developing countries

Goal number 2:
Eliminate hunger. As a rich and highly-adaptable source of calories, palm oil helps further Goal 2 in the fight against hunger in many parts of the world. 

Goal number 8:
Decent jobs and economic growth. Palm oil provides decent jobs and economic growth for producing countries and for refiners, manufacturers and retailers throughout the chain.

Goal number 10:
Reducing inequality: By increasing living standards in producing countries, the Palm oil industry contributes to Goal 10, and reduces inequality.

Goal number 13:
Mitigate climate change + maintain biodiversity: The voluntary industry commitments and government initiatives in the producing countries such as ISPO, MSPO, RSPO and ISCC), contribute to the goal to minimising climate change and actions under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity.

Key in the discussion was the premise that responsibility for ensuring sustainable palm oil use in Europe cannot rest with producers alone.  Alongside supply chain efforts, alignment at Governments level is essential. Appreciation was articulated for projects and initiatives in the producing countries creating a sharp increase in sustainable production:

  • Dedi Junaedi from FOKSBI explained Indonesian policies for sustainable palm oil and underlined that this goal can only be reached if there is commitment and partnership amongst multiple stakeholders.
  • Alejandra Rueda from Nez Naturaleza explained the socio economic importance of palm oil projects for smallholders in Latin America  and the need to encourage good environmental practices.
  • M. Nagarajan, chairman Malaysian Palm Oil Certification Council, explained Malaysian inclusive policies to improve sustainability of palm oil nationwide and the importance of such policies for socio- economic development of smallholders.
  • M Mahendra Siregar, chair of the CPOPC, the joint council of palm oil producing countries, expressed their willingness to work within the SDG’s framework and educate new members on sustainable practices.

Several NGOs have expressed their support, and highlighted that they are communicating more positively on sustainable palm oil to encourage more uptake of sustainable product. To support consumer education on the need to choose sustainable palm oil Herbert Lust from Conservation International kicked off their campaign with palm oil growers in Brazil. He stressed that sustainable palm oil is possible.

In the final debate, Frans Claassen, Chair of EPOA, said: “Now is the time to work together and build on existing initiatives, ensure full uptake of sustainable palm oil import into Europe and set an example to the food industry that 100% sustainable sourcing of a food ingredient is feasible.”

On behalf of the co-organisers, ESPOAG, Nathalie Lecocq, Director General of FEDIOL added: “As an industry the palm oil supply chain for food is being called to account. The time is now to accelerate action on our sustainable development. We must urgently align the needs of the market, with those of society and government and work in the same direction.”

Olivier Charrier, Global President of Nutella, Ferrero said: “Our challenge is how we fully transform the supply chain. We believe the future of food has palm oil in it; and insist on the fact that it must be sustainable.”

Jelmen Haaze, Secretary-General of BASP and Co-Chair of ESPOAG added: “The public and private sector must work together. Only through dialogue and cooperation can we make the last step and truly transform supply chains.“

Frans Claassen, chair of EPOA, concluded: “Better cooperation among actors within the supply chain, food policies building on existing initiatives and societal action to explain the value of sustainable palm oil will help increase its uptake and achieve 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020. The UN 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development will help guide our action and drive sustainable development for people, planet, and prosperity. EPOC 2017 showed that we have made a lot of progress and have good stories to tell in the move to 100% sustainable palm oil.”

Click here for the presentations.