The results of the first detailed Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) study comparing RSPO certified and non-certified palm oil production shows that RSPO certified sustainable palm oil has a 35% lower global warming impact and a 20% lower biodiversity impact from land use changes than non-certified palm oil produced in Indonesia and Malaysia.
The comprehensive study comparing the environmental impact of RSPO certified versus non-certified palm oil was conducted between 2017-2019, with the results being announced earlier this week. There were three impact categories identified as key impacts for palm oil production: global warming, biodiversity impact from land use changes, and respiratory inorganics.
Jannick Schmidt and Michele De Rosa, the LCA consultants from Denmark, found that the main reasons for the 35% lower global warming impact (GHG emissions per kg of RSPO certified palm oil) were due to:
- A lower share of peat soils under certified palm oil leading to lower CO2 emissions
- A higher share of Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) from certified oil treated with biogas capture leading to lower CH4 emissions
- Higher yields and better nutrient utilisation for certified Fresh Fruit Bunch (FFB) leading to lower N2O emissions
- Higher yields (and part of landbank set-aside for nature conservation) for certified FFB leading to lower CO2 emissions.
The study also states that the three impact categories are significantly addressed in the RSPO Principles and Criteria (P&C). Jannick added, “The results of this study could not be more timely as GHG emissions and biodiversity are the impact areas gaining most of the attention in the public debate on palm oil production and its environmental impacts, particularly in Europe, but also globally. We hope that these results will help inform a wide group of stakeholders that we should be pushing for sustainability over a boycott of palm oil,” he said.
The LCA is a so-called cradle-to-gate study, which means that it includes the activities related to the delivery of refined palm oil at the refinery gate. The study was carried out in accordance with ISO 14040/44 on life cycle assessment with a third-party critical panel review, and will be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
For more information on this study and others, please visit: https://lca-net.com/projects/show/lca-certified-palm-oil/