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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil launch new Logo

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has launched a new logo, Read about it here. No idea if we will see it on products in NZ, but it raises some important issues. If you saw the logo on a product in NZ would it encourage people to buy it? Would that decision be based on sound information or simply because it sounds environmentally friendly? This blog article raises many issues, some of which I will look at here.

Lets get one thing straight, RSPO certified palm oil products are more environmentally friendly than non-certified palm oil products. The question is, are they good enough? I am a big fan of the idea that we don't need to buy ethically perfect products right now (many simply don't exist yet). What we need to do is buy the most ethical product that is available and create demand for positive change. But if palm oil free products are more ethical than RSPO certified products then staying palm oil free still the preferred option.

Whats the problem?
Auckland Zoo says "only around 4% of the world's palm oil is certifiably sustainable and this 4% cannot be traced back to the plantation that produced it... At present, being a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) - an industry led group, not an independent body - is still not a 100% guarantee that palm oil is from a sustainable source"
So even if a product carries the RSPO logo this is no guarantee that all of the palm palm oil used is sustainable. The RSPO at the end of the day is a voluntary, industry led organisation and has limits as to how much change it can make at the local level.

So if you have no palm oil free options then RSPO certified products could be worth buying. Or you could decide that on balance certified palm oil is better than the alternatives as Ecostore do, but I simply do not see how it could be justifed. Ecostore says "The other alternative to palm oil is a petrochemical, but this unsustainable." True, petrochemicals are unsustainable, one day they will run out; but is this a problem? I would rather we ran out of petrochemicals than orangutans. 

I could be wrong here, I'm no expert, what do you think?

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