Palm oil: is a sustainable solution on the horizon for palm?
Palm oil is an essential ingredient in many consumer products, used in both cosmetics and foods. In recent times, palm has gained negative attention, with concerns voiced about the destructive environmental practices linked to the sourcing of this material. However, these concerns are now turning into vocal demands for change, and encouragingly, suppliers are listening.
Responsible sourcing is of utmost importance to Givaudan. Here we share an overview about the improvements we made to how we source and handle our palm oil practices over the past year. Our aim is to be clear about how we manage to continue sourcing the most sustainable palm oil possible.
‘Deforestation-free’ palm oil
Maro, Sustainability Manager for Givaudan’s Flavour Division, sheds light on the current challenges:
“The most common negative associated with palm oil is deforestation. In some regions, rainforests are being cut down to make way for palm plantations. Linked to this are concerns over the loss of unique biodiversity in these areas, including the habitats of endangered species. When rainforests are destroyed, extra quantities of carbon emissions are released into the atmosphere, which have a negative influence on global climate change.”
All stakeholders are strongly requesting that this crop material need to grow and be harvested in a responsible, non-destructive manner. The current demand, from NGOs and consumers, is for ‘deforestation-free’ palm oil. This is good news, and a new development: up until two years ago, demand was simply for ‘traceable’ or certified palm, but now these demands are stronger, and the net is cast wider.”
Given this, often the immediate reaction to palm oil is negative. However, Maro explains that, when harvested correctly, palm oil is one of the most viable options to satisfy global needs. “What many consumers and customers don’t know is that palm is the most sustainable crop option for producing vegetable oil. In fact, moving away from palm (for example to coconut oil) would have an even greater detrimental environmental consequence in terms of land use and land degradation.
Imagine coconut palm trees – which only grow in coastal areas – developed on an industrial scale: this would have a terrible effect on the coastlines and mangroves that boast a rich biodiversity. Another example is soy: ten times as much land is required to produce the same amount of vegetable oil. When managed sustainably, palm produces high yields in a small space.”
Givaudan has a vision for the future of palm, but is well aware of the challenges ahead. Part of the complexity of palm oil sourcing is that the more the palm oil is processed, the more complex it is to ensure this material is fully traceable. Oils and fats coming to Europe are now rapidly traceable but for derivatives, more time and collaboration in the supply chains is needed. Furthermore, palm is largely grown in emerging nations and is a fast-growing crop that helps smallholders and farmers escape from poverty. These agricultural entrepreneurs understandably wish to expand their business in line with soaring demand and may not be able to invest in what may be seen as a lengthy and costly certification process.
These issues are of great concern for Givaudan, even though we only purchase very small amounts of palm-derived ingredients and we mostly use palm derivatives (solvents, palm fat and oleochemicals, in our flavours and fragrances.
As an active partner of the world’s leading responsible palm oil sourcing associations – the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), WWF and the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil – we are committed to ensuring that all palm we use is sourced responsibly. Maro outlines how Givaudan, together with its industry partners, is aligned on a common objective: “It is of great importance to accomplish sustainably sourced palm and for the whole palm oil supply chain to become traceable and transparent.”
Certified sustainable palm
Every year we take further steps to make headway in our palm supply chain. In 2011 Givaudan shared the intention to source all its palm-derived ingredients from sustainable sources:
- In 2011, we started with GreenPalm’s Book and Claim scheme to support the production of sustainable palm;
- In 2012 we reached our target of 100% certified sustainable palm.
- Since 2014 we began to source palm oils and palm fats with RSPO Mass Balance certification. Mass balance allows for certain amounts of certified palm oil to be mixed with non-certified oils, and sellers are monitored to ensure that they sell the same volume of certified oil as mixed oils.
- Both schemes – Mass Balance and Book and Claim – go a long way to helping advance a sustainable palm oil production when fully segregated oils are not available.
During 2014, for Europe, we achieved that 95% of the palm oils, fats and derivatives we source for our Flavour Division are certified as Mass Balance. In the coming year, our objective is to have Givaudan’s supply chain certified by a third party auditor, enabling us to transfer our sustainable certificates and claims to customers.
As more stakeholders – consumers, customers and retailers – demand sustainable palm, we intend to keep changing the story of palm into a showcase for sustainable success.
Progress on our palm oil sourcing in 2014
Continued to support the production of sustainable palm. 100% of the palm we sourced is certified. We started sourcing RSPO MB certified palm derived ingredients for Europe and Australia; the rest is covered by GreenPalm certification.
We undertook the GreenPalm audit, certifying that we adhere to GreenPalm requirements and have appropriate systems, processes and personnel in place to oversee and manage our palm sourcing.
We reported our progress on palm oil sourcing to the RSPO, via its Annual Communication of Process and continue to promote RSPO across our supply chain, with customers and suppliers.
We engaged with the Natural Resources Stewardship Circle Palm Oil working group and participated in stakeholder workshops promoting a move to sustainable palm oil based on greater traceability and certification.
Givaudan joined the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil to reflect our commitment to 100% certified palm oil and to actively move forward on traceable and sustainable palm oil.
In February 2014, Givaudan and other members of the French Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil hosted a stand at the Paris International Agricultural Show. This event offered an opportunity to meet with thousands of visitors and explain the economic, social and environmental challenges of palm oil production and its supply chain.