KOTA KINABALU: The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification is the best option available today to source sustainable palm oil that protects the environment and supports livelihoods.
This was the message that the Malaysian Palm Oil NGOs Coalition (MPONGOC) drove home to over 300 delegates representing a wide range of stakeholders at RSPO’s 2nd European Roundtable in London last Wednesday.
Stating the coalition’s collective viewpoint at a debate on the question of whether RSPO certification is the best option at present, Land Empowerment Animals People (Leap) executive director Cynthia Ong said palm oil is a trading imperative for Malaysia and Indonesia which serves 85 per cent of the world’s consumption for the edible oil.
“It is schools, roads, healthcare, public service — inextricable from our economic, political and social evolution, and our sovereignty. The growing world population demands and consumes the most efficient vegetable oil, and at 10 times more yield per hectare compared to other oils, Malaysia and Indonesia supply it.
“There is a cause-effect. By the same token, eco-imperialism on one side will have the effect of jingoism on the other.
“Today, 1,500 members in seven stakeholder groups invest resources and time into building the space and making this space work is our shared responsibility,” Ong said.
Leap is part of MPONGOC, a growing movement of civil society organisations and networks that was born over a year ago when it became clear that there was a need to engage strategically with all stakeholders.
One of the seven points MPONGOC made at the debate was that the issues on the ground are difficult, heart-breaking and unsustainable, and that complexities and intricacies cannot be simplified or glossed over.
Ong said simplification makes things black and white and creates a dichotomy.
“Lives, livelihoods, forests, orang utans fall through the divide, while we continue consuming uncertified palm oil. We were on a roll for a while and now feedback loops show us the problems and dangers. And they are grave — greenhouse gas emissions, opening of peat lands, deforestation, land conflict, habitat destruction and loss of species.
“Partial solutions are not solutions. Partial wins make some feel good somewhere and create a problem for some somewhere else. The strong-arming that manipulates the “win” often exacerbates conflict or division, and undermines our efforts,” she said.
Ong stressed that MPONGOC, which is on ground zero, called on other certifications schemes such as the Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) and 0 Deforestation to innovate within the space.
“Why undermine our best chance? Work with us. Build trust, build confidence and build resilience.
“This is about being sincere and not whose campaign killed palm oil with one silver bullet, or who gain the lion’s share of the market because they are “greener,” or standing on the sidelines complaining that the space is not working.
“How do we achieve real wins on the ground? How do we cover all bases by working off each other’s strengths and access,” she asked.
Citing Sabah as an example, Ong said if everyone gets on the RSPO track and work to continuously raise the standard together, the landscape will fundamentally change and solutions will start to appear.
“Engage with RSPO, jump in with both feet, roll up sleeves, get others on track, innovate in the gaps, bring everyone from smallholders to the big guys to the basic standard, and work continually to raise the standard together,” she said.
The day-long event with the theme “100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil: Our Shared Responsibility” aimed to launch a new dialogue on palm oil sustainability, especially with new European Union food labeling rules that come into effect in December requiring palm oil to be named on packs of all products, impacting half a billion consumers in that region.
More needs to be done in the market as only 52 per cent of sustainable palm oil is bought, and increasing market demand is critical to drive up production of sustainable palm oil by growers.
Europe is leading this global market transformation as more companies there are publicly announcing their commitment to source only certified sustainable palm oil.
Source : New Straits Times