It’s hidden in nearly half of packaged goods on store shelves and has likely made its way into your pantry. Palm oil is everywhere and it’s a major source of deforestation, carbon emissions, and biodiversity loss. It devastates the lives of orangutans and displaces indigenous populations.
One way to address the environmental threats from palm oil production is to boycott products made with it. Although it may take some digging to make sure you’re not supporting the destruction of orangutan habitats, purchasing palm oil–free products will help save the planet and allow Indonesia’s endangered orangutans to live peaceful lives in the treetops of Sumatra and Borneo’s rainforests.
In response to consumer concerns, some companies have boasted better sourcing practices and now adopt the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification on its products. The certification informs consumers that such companies are working with environmentally and socially responsible palm oil producers. The RSPO has certified up to 14 percent of the world’s palm oil production.
But, can RSPO-certified palm oil truly be sustainable?
Sinar Mas Group, an Indonesian conglomerate with palm oil subsidiaries, is a member of RSPO. This company is also actively engaging in illegal deforestation and burning peatlands in Indonesia, proving that RSPO membership alone is not enough to validate the sustainability credentials of a company.
RSPO standards are falling short of its vision by not barring “secondary” forests and peatland clearings in the production of palm oil. Greenhouse gas emissions, such as the carbon emitted from peatland clearings, are not included in the standards. This allows companies to release huge amounts of carbon emissions into the air and still meet RSPO standards.
There has been some debate over whether RSPO-certification works or if it’s just “greenwash”, another way for palm oil-sourcing companies to create the illusion of sustainability and make big bucks from consumers like us.
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