According to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO, almost 12 million tons, or 21% of the global supply of palm oil, is now certified as responsible and sustainable. The massive expansion of palm oil plantations has been one of the primary causes of global deforestation. This has been especially the case in Borneo, where 85% of global palm oil production takes place.
The growth of sustainably sourced palm oil has been driven by several factors, including increased consumer demand for responsible production and government regulations. A growing number of food companies are committing to end deforestation within their supply chains, which is driving up demand for palm oil certified by RSPO. NGOs are applying pressure on companies that rely on palm oil but haven’t embraced sustainability demanding that they take a stronger stand against deforestation.
The RSPO’s monitoring and auditing of palm oil operations is also improving working conditions and human rights in the plantations. Partnering with governments, they are helping to shape policies that improve environmental protection.
The orangutan has been the enduring symbol of the global palm oil industry’s impact on the environment because its habit in Borneo has been under siege by the expansion of palm oil plantations. The endangered species is serving as an effective emotional tool to push the industry to change its ways. It is the only way that the orangutan can survive so environmental groups are keeping the pressure on palm oil companies.
The progress is gratifying but there is much more to be done. After all, 79% of palm oil is not yet certified as responsible and sustainable.
Photo, posted February 21, 2010, courtesy of Craig Morey via Flickr.