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100% sustainable palm oil: A global approach is needed

Abstract natural background, fresh green tree foliage in the forest, bright sunlight through tree twigs, beautiful nature in summer timeAs we celebrated Earth day on 22 April, the leaders of the world officially sign the Paris Climate Agreement. A moment to reflect on our own commitment to 100% sustainable palm oil in Europe by 2020.

Certified sustainable palm oil today represents 21% of global production. A figure that continues to rise, but several hurdles remain. There still is a 50% gap between supply and demand. A serious acceleration of efforts is needed and planned. IMACE works together with other major food sectors at European level within ESPOAG, the European Sustainable Palm Oil Advocacy Group.  But private sector initiatives cannot drive the change towards sustainability alone.

Today’s global supply chains impact indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers and local communities, government, industry and consumers. This brings many complexities. If we want to make the transition to truly sustainable sourcing, Europe must also look outward. Emphasis should lay on governance reforms and capacity building to strengthen environmental policies and regulations and their enforcement. Reaching out to smallholders, which produce 40 percent of the palm oil, will also require positive incentives.

Given the relative limited weight of the EU market (only 11% of the total palm oil production is used in the EU), a global approach beyond the EU-scope is needed. Emerging economies, such as India and China, need also to be made more aware of the need to include principles of sustainability in their sourcing policies

Further alignment on definitions, criteria and standards to set a common goal for Agricultural commodities is essential.

The EU Commission should consult with industry and define a sustainability baseline for crops, against which local production systems could be benchmarked. Existing schemes like RSPO, could play a role here and in future EU policies and/or bilateral trade agreements.

Steady progress is being made by the industry to transform its supply chains but more actions and commitments from all stakeholders, including collaboration between public and private sector, are needed to reach our goals of 100% sustainable palm oil.

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