Sustainable Palm Oil gets boost in China


Major China-based producers and users of palm oil have announced they intend to provide more support for sustainable palm oil. This is seen as an important boost for efforts to halt tropical deforestation, as well as an incentive for the UK to up its game on sourcing sustainable palm oil.

The public statement, made at the 2nd International Oil and Fats Summit in Beijing on July 9, committed the companies to “support the promotion, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil in China,” as well as “support the production of sustainable palm oil through any investments in producing countries.” China is currently the world’s largest importer of palm oil, accounting for one third of all global trade.

Increasing demand for palm oil, which is used in everything from soap to chocolate bars, is causing considerable damage to fragile rainforest environments, threatening endangered species like tigers and orangutans and contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions.


Fortest cleared for Oil Palm, WWF


Orphaned orangutans, Borneo, Andy Bingham

Palm oil producers and buyers making the statement included Wilmar International, IOI Corperation, KLK Berhad, Kulim Malaysia Berhad, Asia Agri., Premier Foods PLC and Unilever PLC. Oxfam International, TransAsia Lawyers, and Solidaridad China were signatories.

"Given the massive volumes of palm oil now being purchased, any move China makes towards using sustainable palm oil will have a big influence on protecting tropical forest resources in South East Asia and other areas. Hopefully, this will be an incentive for the UK to up the ante in sourcing more sustainable palm oil too,” said WWF-UK senior policy officer for food and agriculture Adam Harrison.

Of the annual capacity of 1.75 million tonnes of sustainable palm, just 100,000 tonnes have been sold to date. In a bid to speed up this “sluggish performance”, WWF will assess the world’s major users of palm oil over the next six months and publish a Palm Oil Buyer’s Scorecard highlighting companies that support sustainable palm oil and exposing those who have not fulfilled their commitments to buy it.
WWF helped set up the international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2004, with the aim of establishing global standards for sustainable palm oil production and promoting the use of products containing sustainable palm oil. WWF-China first introduced sustainable palm oil to Chinese companies in 2004, and continues to encourage the country’s buyers, producers, and traders to participate in RSPO.   Sustainable palm oil received a massive boost in November 2008 when Dr. Huo Jiangguo, President of China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs and Native Produce, attended the RSPO annual conference in Indonesia and announced that China supported the drive for more sustainable palm oil products.   “Industry in China acknowledges that sustainability is one of the key criteria of ensuring competence in the global market,” said Dr. Bian Zhenghu, vice president of the China Chamber of Commerce during his opening address to the forum. “The roundtable encourages the entire industry chain to make a move towards sustainability, and also gives Chinese stakeholders a big opportunity to play a significant role achieving the aims of RSPO,” Dr. Bian said. 

In conjunction with the summit, CFNA and WWF China organised a dialogue on promoting sustainable palm oil in China. More than 100 participants from government and industry attended the summit. Representatives from Malaysia, Indonesia and Europe presented findings on the growth and impact of sustainable palm oil development in key producing countries and trade regions. At the conclusion, the names of pioneer signatories to the Statement of Support for promoting sustainable palm oil in China were announced.