SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL – the future
UPTAKE in certification of sustainable palm oil supplies is likely to increase with the approach of regulatory changes planned for 2014, delegates attending a conference hosted by BM TRADA Certification Ltd heard.
The conference, held at Mary Ward House, London, on June 21, 2012, brought together representatives from across the palm oil supply chain and an impressive line up of speakers, authorities in their own right on sustainable palm oil, outlining what the future holds and the implications for suppliers, industry and retailers.
BM TRADA Certification Ltd, the first supply chain certification body to be approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), held the conference to provide a forum for an open, transparent debate on the future of sustainable palm oil, to examine the demands of a range of stakeholders across the industry and raise awareness to the benefits of certification. Andy Green, Sustainability Business Manager, BM TRADA Certification Ltd chaired the debate.
David Webb, Chief Executive, BM TRADA Group, said: “There are many misconceptions around palm oil, so we felt it important to open the debate, help stakeholders gain a clearer understanding of the issues, and to inform retailers and manufacturers. The calibre of speakers and response from delegates testifies the desire for those involved to have a common goal and clear direction as we go forward.”
Speakers, all of whom gave their time free, were:
Hidde van Kersen, RSPO; Adam Harrison, WWF; Freddie Woolfe, Hermes EOS; Dr Samantha Lacey, CDC Group; Stephen Lowe, DEFRA; Fiona Wheatley, Marks and Spencer; Ken Grant, Tiger Tim Products Ltd; Ian Bowles, Premier Foods and Alasdair McGregor, BM TRADA Certification.
Ian Bowles, Group Head of Sustainability at Premier Foods, said: “We were an early adopter of the RSPO Supply Chain Certification Standard, recognising quickly the benefits it offered to our business. It gives customers and consumers evidence of our commitment to responsible sourcing and sustainable procurement. Yes, there are challenges to multi-site certification, but we’ve demonstrated they are not insurmountable and it reaps rewards.”
Hidde van Kersen, from RSPO, was upbeat about growing market uptake of sustainable palm oil. Membership of RSPO was increasing, he said, with a rising awareness of the benefits of certification. He stressed the need for a fair and balanced public perception of palm oil – and the role clients could play in achieving this. The approaching changes in regulations, which will require manufacturers to specify individual oil used in their products, may cause a further increase in uptake of sustainable palm oil.
Membership of RSPO was increasing, he said, with a rising awareness of the benefits of certification. He stressed the need for a fair and balanced public perception of palm oil – and the role clients could play in achieving this.
Fiona Wheatley, from Marks and Spencer, responsible for the company’s Plan A Natural Resources strategy, told delegates the emphasis should be on increasing the pace of sustainable palm oil procurement and getting supply chain certification in place so everyone can see where sustainable palm oil is being used and where more effort has to be directed. She felt not only regulatory changes but multiple retailer and other company commitments to sustainable palm oil would drive certification uptake.
Adam Harrison, Senior Policy Officer for Food and Agriculture for WWF UK, who leads WWF on institutional support to the RSPO, spoke of the versatility and productive qualities of palm oil, its continued demand which is expected to double by 2050 and the urgency for strengthening of standards for production, itself a complex arena. He also welcomed seeing representatives from right across the palm oil supply chain in one room, discussing the topic and seeking solutions together.
The practicalities of obtaining certification were outlined by Ken Grant, from Tiger Tim Products Ltd, a company producing firelighters. They had developed a firelighter using a palm oil derivative blend as an alternative to their standard kerosene product range. He said some initial operational issues surfaced during the transition period but these were quickly resolved, and working with BM TRADA he had found the certification process relatively straightforward and more than worthwhile.
Further information on RSPO supply chain certification is available here.