So-called “sustainable” palm oil producers criticized

RAN’s Rainforest Agribusiness Team Investigates Palm Oil Controversy in Indonesia

Photo by Flickr user Rainforest Action Network, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thanks to AlterNet, I came across this recent post from John Vidal of The Guardian, which raises concerns about the practices of some member companies of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). As he describes,

The growing global demand for palm oil has fuelled a massive expansion of plantations across the forests of southeast Asia and Africa but concerns have been growing for over a decade about the resulting environmental and social impacts. The RSPO, set up in 2004 by the industry and civil society groups including WWF, sets criteria for greener palm oil production and tries to encourage industry expansion in ways that do not cause social conflict.

About 15% of the world’s palm oil is now certified as “sustainable” by the RSPO, whose members range from some of the largest growers and traders, to relatively small companies.

“Since its founding the RSPO has adopted good standards, but too many member companies are not delivering on these paper promises,” said Norman Jiwan, director of human rights group Transformasi Untuk Keadilan Indonesia….

According to some, the RSPO’s voluntary “best practice” rules and guidelines are not working and the organisation is in danger of becoming a figleaf for agribusiness to take advantage of weak land laws.

“Underlying this failure of ‘voluntary best practice’ are national laws and policies which deny or ignore indigenous peoples’ and communities’ land rights,” said Marcus Colchester, an adviser at Forest Peoples Programme.

“In their rush to encourage investment and exports, governments are trampling their own citizens’ rights. Global investors, retailers, manufacturers and traders must insist on dealing in conflict-free palm oil, and national governments must up their game and respect communities’ rights.”

For the details, check out Vidal’s full post and the entire report. For additional background on palm oil, check out my recent post.

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