Between 16 – 18 June, the RSPO Secretariat held its first ever North America Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue, which took place virtually. The digital event saw over 400 participants engage in dialogue on the current market, challenges, and opportunities for sustainable palm oil in North America.

Industry leaders and key stakeholders across all sectors participated in panel discussions covering six key topics; human rights, deforestation, setting targets for organisations, oil palm smallholders, the role of banks and investors, and how zoos and conservation organisations drive impact.

This was an important time to hold a conference focused on North America, due to the continuing growth of RSPO Membership, RSPO Certification, and consumer awareness in North America. As of June 2020, there are over 650 RSPO members in North America, more than double the amount of members in 2016. This growth in membership is representative of an increasing desire for North American stakeholders to contribute to improving human rights conditions, stopping deforestation, supporting smallholders, and to playing an impactful role while being geographically far removed from growing regions. 

Throughout the conference, the six panels covered the vital roles and actions needed from stakeholders across all sectors, including consumers, to create a positive impact. Speaking during the panel on how North American based companies can turn deforestation policies into action, Rachael Sherman, the Director Global Sustainability for McDonald’s Corporation said, “If you are a company and you are using palm oil anywhere around the world, you should be taking action right now. We can all do this! We have a responsibility, and we can contribute. Take action, and start today if you haven’t already.”

In the panel session focusing on how zoos engage consumers and companies, the panelists discussed the important role consumers play in getting North American companies to take action. Suzanne Hall, Conservation Policy Specialist at San Diego Zoo Global, was a panelist for this session and said, “The single most important thing that any consumer can do to support the RSPO, is to purchase products made with RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. We need to incentivise [members] within the RSPO to keep on the path, and we need to incentivise other corporates to get involved with sustainable palm oil.”

At the conclusion of the conference, a common theme that emerged was a sense of urgency and a need for collective action. The discussions presented a great opportunity to hear from influential stakeholders highlighting an inspirational tone focusing on celebrating successes while continuing to push forward to increase commitments and implementation across all sectors. David Burns, Senior Manager for Tropical Forests and Agriculture at the National Wildlife Federation summarised the entire conference well during the panel titled The North American Market: 2020 and the Way Forward. In a call to action, David said, “We collectively have a window to rethink what business as usual should be, and reset our expectations of what is possible and where we need to move. Let’s turn these supply chains into forces for good that will conserve forests and natural ecosystems, uphold human dignity, and lift folks out of poverty.”

All of the sessions for the North America Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue were recorded and can be found here: 

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