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Industry defends GreenPalm oil certificates

By Rod Addy , 13-Jun-2011
Last updated on 13-Jun-2011 at 14:43 GMT

Processors and environmentalists have rebuffed recent attacks on sustainable palm oil certificates within the national press.

Press reports last month slated the GreenPalm certification scheme for perpetuating unsustainable palm oil sourcing. It is backed by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and exhorts firms to buy certificates guaranteeing investment in sustainable palm production to offset sourcing standard palm.

Some manufacturers also source more palm oil sustainably than others. United Biscuits is aiming for 100% segregated sustainable supplies by 2012, for example.

Similar sustainable certification schemes and roundtables exist for other crops and their products, such as soy beans and oil, and so have been accused by implication.

Enough for all

But GreenPalm general manager Bob Norman said his organisation - which runs the certificate trading programme - aimed to build sustainable palm oil supplies to levels that offered enough for all manufacturers to use at competitive prices.

He added that some processors used straight, refined palm oil for foods such as biscuits, which is easier to source. Others use stearin, palm oil's solid derivative, for spreads and margarines.

Sourcing sustainable stearin was harder, said Norman, as it represents only 20% of derivatives produced after processing palm oil and fractionating it.

Olein, the liquid derivative, is used for cooking oil, and represents the other 80%. "If a manufacturer wanted one tonne of sustainable stearin, they would need five tonnes of sustainable palm oil and you would need to find a home for the olein," said Norman. "It's likely these markets are not going to be paying a premium for that."

Kellogg buys GreenPalm certificates to cover all its palm oil usage, but said the segregated sustainable palm oil it uses is unavailable in Europe. "Once a segregated supply is available that is financially and logistically feasible, we, too, will move to sustainable palm oil," said Bruce Learner, corporate responsibility manager at Kellogg Europe.

The first certified sustainable soy farms are being announced on June 8, according to WWF.

Asda, Sainsbury, Morrisons, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer have all joined the Roundtable on Responsible Soy (RTRS), said Isabella Vitali, WWF senior policy officer for livestock and soy. However, as we went to press, only Waitrose had committed to sourcing 100% RTRS sustainable soy by 2015.

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