Why palm oil is still a burning issue

Palm oil is an environmentally sensitive ingredient. Givaudan demonstrates responsible sourcing efforts in this area, through partnering on many fronts.

Palm oil

Palm oil frequently makes the headlines for its detrimental impact on environments and wildlife. Widely included in many foods and cosmetics, it is the primary source of cooking oil in Asia. With a booming population comes increased demand and a heavy ecological burden. Producers race to keep up. Closely following the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) guidelines and as an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Givaudan takes sourcing of this contentious crop very seriously.

Givaudan aims to only buy palm oil and its derivatives with Certifiable Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) certification. Simply purchasing from RSPO growers is not enough – companies should be RSPO members to source sustainable palm. As an RSPO member, in 2013 Givaudan attended the RSPO conference in Berlin and completed the RSPO’s Annual Communication of Progress.

Partnerships are key to driving change in palm oil practices. Within Europe, Givaudan is a member of the Alliance Française pour une Huile de Palme Durable. In addition, we bring the issue of palm oil into the spotlight as a founding member of the National Resources Stewardship Circle (NRSC). Here we call upon brands to make a positive impact on preserving biodiversity. Palm oil is a top agenda item for this group.

The demand for vegetable oils will only increase. Population and consumption patterns are growing all over the world. From a land-use perspective, palm fruits are the most sustainable feedstock for vegetable oil. A key challenge in the coming years will be to guarantee a supply of palm oil from plantations that offer alternatives to deforestation. Moving away from palm is not the solution, rather supply chains need to work together to aim for a deforestation-free palm oil source.

Despite these efforts, sourcing sustainable palm or kernel oil remains complex. Maro, Sustainability Manager Flavours, explains: “We only source tiny quantities of palm oil derivatives but strive to ensure that everything we source comes from the most trusted and sustainable source. The key challenges for sustainable oils from palm kernel derivatives is that they are mixed in with non-certified oil, at the mill or at ports. Like many other customers, Givaudan, is demanding ‘segregated’ (SG) Certifiable Sustainable Palm (Kernel) Oil (CSPKO), whereby truly sustainable oil is kept apart throughout the supply chain. Where this isn’t available, we choose ‘Mass Balance’ (MB) oil, whereby certified palm oil is blended with non-certified oil.

Givaudan has worked very hard to identify opportunities to source segregated crude palm oil derivatives. In 2014 Givaudan started sourcing oil with MB certification. The process to get supply chain certified with SGS, a third party auditor is also under way.

Despite the challenges of responsibly sourcing this commodity, positive progress continues to be made, as Maro states: “In 2011, Givaudan began purchasing RSPO-certified palm oil; in 2012 we achieved 100% certification based on GreenPalm certificates. In 2013, we continued to purchase certified palm oil derivatives and, just like in 2012, successfully completed an audit to verify our claims. Furthermore, in 2013 we completed WWF’s bi-annual palm oil buyers’ scorecard, achieving 11 out of a possible 12 points. This is significant as animal habitats are severely compromised by unregulated palm oil plantations; WWF is a key actor within the palm oil debate and this scorecard helps ensure that companies are sourcing from responsible growers.”

By working together with the appropriate associations, Givaudan hopes to be a contributor for change in the palm oil debate.