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Only 38% of Palm Oil Production by RSPO Members Certified Sustainable

A worker harvests fresh palm bunches for oil in Thailand. | Image credit: Business Report Thailand

The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) released analysis of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) showing only a handful of member producers are making adequate progress towards the goal of becoming 100 percent sustainable. 

WWF based its analysis on data compiled by the RSPO in 2012 for its Annual Communication of Progress, evaluating member producers on several criteria including whether members have reported progress, set time-bound certification plans, disclosed palm oil production numbers and how much of it is certified as sustainable. 

The evaluation was self-reported by producers themselves and not independently verified. However, WWF claims it still provides a reasonable snapshot of how RSPO producers are progressing on their sustainability commitments. 

The analysis found 70 percent of the growers in the RSPO submitted reports but only 58 percent disclosed the extent of the estates they manage. Of the 92 growers in the RSPO, 53 released how much crude palm oil they produce and only 38 percent was certified as sustainable. 

Slightly more than half of the growers have set themselves any sort of time-bound plan for certification of their estate land and a third have set time-bound sustainability plans for 2015 or sooner. Only 29 companies have time-bound plans for certifying their associated smallholders that have a long-term contractual relationship to supply fresh fruit bunches to their mills.

Traditional palm oil production methods have been identified as a serious cause of climate change through its contributions to deforestation. Starbucks recently agreed to begin sourcing 100 percent of its palm oil from certified sustainable suppliers by 2015, a response to a shareholder resolution filed by an environmental mutual fund. 

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant. @mikehower contributed.


Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]


Mike Hower is Marketing Communications Manager at Carbon Lighthouse. With a background on both sides of the communications podium — as a journalist and strategic communicator — he is committed to helping organizations address climate change through sustainability innovation. Previously,…
[Read more about Mike Hower]


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