Last month, the RSPO Latin America and North America teams collaboratively hosted American journalists for a media tour in Mexico. Visiting smallholders with as little as two hectares of oil palm and speaking with staff from the world’s largest bakery, the media tour provided a unique perspective of a country that is actively involved in all aspects of the palm oil supply chain. Additionally, Mexico is relatively new to the production of palm oil after the Mexican government introduced the crop in the late 90’s as an economic development strategy. The focus of the media tour was to meet many actors across sectors to discover how sustainability and the RSPO are considered, as the growth of the industry continues in the country.
The tour began with conversations with NGOs that are actively engaged in sustainable palm oil. The High Conservation Value Resource Network (HCVRN) provided insight into how their methodologies, combined with the High Carbon Stock Approach, are vital components of the RSPO standard. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Mexico provided the local context for conservation and biodiversity challenges, as well as their involvement in the Mexico National Interpretation. Ithaca Environmental gave some historical perspectives on palm oil in Mexico as a whole and their view on the potential sustainability of the crop.
The Mexican Council for the Development of Palm Oil (COMEXPALMA) and The National Association of Edible Oils and Shortening Producers (ANIAME) presented their efforts as lead organisers of the National Interpretation process, as well as their contributions to sustainable palm oil as associations with convening power through collectively representing almost all of the palm oil production in the country. The Mexican Federation of Oil Palm (FEMEXPALMA) talked about their efforts to reach out to smallholders, as well as Mexico’s largest growers, to align them with the RSPO through training, capacity building, and their future investigation centre, which will be the first of its kind in Mexico.
Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest bakery, welcomed the media tour participants into their corporate headquarters in Mexico City to share updates on their progress to source 100% RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) for all of their products globally. In addition to being RSPO members with a global supply chain, Grupo Bimbo also leverages their influence through being a founding member of the North American Sustainable Palm Oil Network (NASPON). NASPON’s mission is to be a platform to collaborate, educate, inform, and build momentum to help North American companies make and deliver on commitments to source sustainable palm oil.
Oleopalma, a Mexican palm oil producer committed to social development and environmental sustainability, hosted the participants for site visits to an RSPO Smallholder Support Fund (RSSF) project of smallholder farmers. These smallholders are also supported by Oleopalma along with PepsiCo and Nestle. When we arrived, smallholders were receiving training from Oleopalma on ways to improve their record keeping and organisational skills to achieve increased efficiency and productivity. The smallholders expressed excitement for the training and support that Oleopalma provided. “The RSSF project has taught us that we need to increase our yield before we expand our land. There is much more we can do with what we already have,” said one smallholder.
After over a dozen interviews, the journalists were able to see the collaborative efforts across sectors to ensure that the palm oil industry in Mexico is sustainable. The RSPO is working alongside local smallholders, grower associations, international NGOs, and multi-national organisations to move towards 100% CSPO in the region. The journalists will be publishing stories from their experiences that will highlight these efforts along with stories of the people on the ground that have been dedicating themselves to promoting sustainable palm oil as a way to improve their communities and the world.