Slash and burn palm oil plantations have caused huge amounts of habitat loss accompanied by many species becoming critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable to extinction. The decrease in viable forests also decreases the absorption of CO2 which is one of the biggest factors in global warming. The importance of maintaining biodiversity is a big topic which will be covered in another post.
In the meantime, there are measures we can take as consumers that can help reduce the demand for palm oil that has been produced at the expense of the environment and the species dependant on it.
First, look at the package ingredients to determine if palm oil is listed. If palm oil is listed, look to see if they have indicated that it was sustainably produced. There are certifications that will be helpful in making that determination. The video below explains sustainability standards.
There are a number of certifications to look for. They are listed in declining order of ranking in regard to strength of requirements according to Forest Peoples Programme.
- Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
- Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB)
- Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
- International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC)
- Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO)
What does RSPO certified sustainable palm oil mean? According to Greenpalm.org, “palm oil that is grown and certified against the 8 RSPO principles and criteria (with supporting indicators). These stringent sustainability criteria relate to social, environmental and economic good practice. They are reviewed every five years via public consultation, followed by member agreement on a consensus basis for any changes or additions.”
As you can see, sustainability standards are broader than environmental protection alone. The standards include economic viability, consideration to the well-being of the community and the employees of the growers and mills and principal #1 is commitment to transparency.
In order for sustainaibility practices to succeed they need to be transparent to the consumer so that informed decisions can be made. Economic viability should also be a factor. Working with the groups for economic sustainability is necessary if we want to provide alternatives to more damaging practices.
A highly effective environmentally aware consumer does more than just avoid products based on surface level ingredient lists. An understanding of what it really means goes deeper than that. This can be a timeconsuming and confusing task though there are some tools that may be of service in this regard.
If you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch you can use the RSPO app to help you in making your purchase decisions.
Source: RSPO on the App Store
Or if you want a more general sustainability check you can use the HowGood app or the GoodGuide app.
Source: HowGood Ratings
Source: Mobile Apps | GoodGuide
If you want more in depth information please make use of the resource links and videos below.
Source: Palm oil and biodiversity | IUCN
Is the increased use of palm oil-based consumer products putting the rainforests at risk?