On 5 April 2016 MEP Julie Girling invited the Indonesian Ambassador to the EU as well as stakeholders from the NGO and industry sides to the European Parliament to debate on the best ways to achieve the goal of 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020. The event was co-hosted with the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group (ESPOAG).
In December 2015, ESPOAG organisations signed along with other private sector organisations and national palm oil alliances a Commitment to Support 100% Sustainable Palm Oil in Europe by 2020. However, several hurdles remain. Certified sustainable palm oil today represents 21% of global palm oil production. Even though there is enough certified sustainable palm oil available to supply the European market, there is still a 50% gap between supply and demand. “We need to address the hurdles that cause this gap” concluded Siska Pottie, representative of ESPOAG. “There are still a lot of ideas and questions we hope that panellists will share their ideas on how specific hurdles can be overcome” she added.
His Excellency Ambassador Yuri Thamrin reaffirmed the commitment of the Indonesian government to pursue its engagement towards a 100% sustainable palm oil production: “We are ready to consider good cooperation projects with our partners in Europe to attain 100% sustainable palm oil and overcome all impediments”.
Participants agreed that strong collaboration between suppliers and users is key to drive the change across all markets and sectors. The transition towards a sustainable supply chain and compliance with SPO standards implies extra costs that smallholder farmers cannot bear without specific support. “The EU Action Plan on Deforestation and Forest Degradation should provide increased financial and technical assistance to producing countries to improve governance, protect natural capital and enhance human well-being”, said Cecile Schneider from Conservation International.
European SMEs must also be given support to map their supply chain and to get access to sustainable fractions in a cost effective manner. This is one of the purposes of the French Alliance on Sustainable Palm Oil. It “supports SMEs into the change towards sustainable palm oil. Such changes imply large logistical and economic challenges for companies” explained the industry representative Fabrice Enjalbert, who was speaking on behalf of the French Alliance on Sustainable Palm Oil.
On the demand side, the uptake depends on the willingness of consumers to pay for sustainable palm oil. It is then crucial that consumers receive objective and simple information on palm oil, so that they are reassured and convinced that sustainable palm oil is the way to go. Using the SPO logo on the packaging could be a first step in this direction, said Danielle Morley, RSPO representative.
The discussion identified that parties should keep working on “definitions, criteria and standards to set a common goal for sustainable palm oil and for the reduction of deforestation”, as stated by ESPOAG. Emmanuelle Maire, DG Envi, announced that the European Commission “plans to launch a specific study on the environmental impact of palm oil consumption and on existing sustainability standards. The results should be available in 2017”.
MEP Julie Girling concluded the meeting by welcoming the approaches of the panellists and stressing the need for further cooperation to reach 100% sustainable palm oil.
About the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group (ESPOAG):
The European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group (ESPOAG) was created in January 2013. Its objective is to support the uptake of sustainable palm oil in Europe and to communicate scientiﬁc and objective facts and ﬁgures on environmental, nutritional and functional aspects of sustainable palm oil in Europe. ESPOAG encourages further alignment on definitions, criteria and standards to set a common goal for sustainable palm oil and for the reduction of deforestation.
It is composed of AIBI (International Association of Plant Bakers), CAOBISCO (Chocolate, Biscuits and Confectionery of Europe), FEDIMA (Federation of European Union Manufacturers and Suppliers of Ingredients to the Bakery, Confectionery and Patisserie Industries), FEDIOL (EU Vegetable Oil and Proteinmeal Industry) and IMACE (European Margarine Association).