The pushback against palm oil

Sharanya Pillai

SINGAPORE (Dec 7): The pushback against palm oil is escalating given the industry has been accused of everything from widespread deforestation and transboundary pollution to displacement of wildlife and even human rights abuses.

Next year, the EU will finalise a method to determine which biofuels are high-risk in terms of climate change. The EU may then stop using those high-risk crops in biofuel by 2030. While palm oil is not specifically named, fears are that the crop will be targeted.

Palm oil is also becoming unfashionable among retail brands. Popular cosmetics brand Lush, for instance, is removing most palm oil from its supply chain because it has not identified “any fully sustainable and traceable” palm oil sources. While calling Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) a positive step, the brand notes that only 20% of all palm oil is certified today. “We’re not convinced that palm oil can ever be truly sustainable,” Lush says on its website.

Palm oil industry veteran M R Chandran who last month attended the 16th annual conference of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry body pushing for sustainability, argues that the rhetoric against palm oil is white noise. He feels it detracts from the genuine efforts taken by the RSPO and producers to remedy the complex problems. “All that nonsense, that you can do away with palm oil and find alternatives, is the height of hypocrisy,” says Chandran.

Can the palm oil industry ever be fully sustainable and what can consumers and investors do to educate themselves on palm oil sustainability? Find out in Palmful of problems in Issue 869 of The Edge Singapore (week of Dec 10). Or subscribe here.