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Scaling up the sustainable palm oil value chain is key to meet China’s climate pledges
Changsha, China – 4 August 2022 – The 2022 China Sustainable Palm Oil Forum, held yesterday at Intercontinental Changsha, was a gathering of almost 100 advocates rallying for a better and more sustainable palm oil industry.
The event which was jointly organised by the China Chamber of Commerce of Foodstuffs and Native Produce (CFNA), and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) brought together participants from government agencies, traders, processors, manufacturers, social organisations and certification bodies.
The forum vibrantly discussed policies and trends to support sustainable palm oil development in China and abroad, with a deep dive into the significance of building a green value chain. Discussions saw presentations on current practices, recent case studies and results of efforts taken by companies in the supply chain. Shared Responsibility, a term coined by the RSPO for collective commitment by its members, was the core messaging in every discussion, as the basis to transform markets.
The event, which was also part of the 6th RSPO China Forum, began with opening remarks by the President of CFNA, Cao Derong, and the CEO of RSPO, Joseph D'Cruz. Both highlighted the importance of a sustainable palm oil supply chain and the demand for a framework to support sustainability-based progress in this sector.
“Promoting sustainable palm oil in China helps meet national climate pledges”, said Derong. In addition, he mentioned CNFA has developed a sustainable palm oil consumption guide as a tool to support the market players in China to conduct sustainable practices.
In his speech, Joseph indicated that to make the palm oil sector truly sustainable, it is vital that RSPO standards become embedded in the global supply chain. “To foster the global green supply chain, we need to boost the uptake of certified sustainable palm oil, especially in the growing markets of China, India, and Indonesia. The RSPO certification should be a default requirement in all business models, government policies, and trade deals. The commitment our downstream members have made to Shared Responsibility will be a crucial driver of this change,” he said.
The second part of the forum saw CFNA’s Cereals and Oils Department Director, Chen Ying, share their efforts in promoting sustainable palm oil in China. She went on to analyse the existing challenges in the supply chain and the potential risks of purchasing unsustainable palm oil. She also suggested how to promote the development of sustainable palm oil in the context of China's climate targets.
One topic that attracted much attention at the event was the national strategy for a green value chain in China, presented by the World Economic Forum (WEF). WEF’s Tropical Forest Alliance China specialist, Li Pengyu, pointed out that the draft of the national strategy and action plan has been completed, and the next step is to conduct the analysis and discussion of key topics – green trade, food security, supply chain resilience, sustainable standards, and cost control of soft commodities. “To strengthen international cooperation, China could play a vital role in the global green value chain,” he said.
Apart from the keynote speeches, panel discussions brought together producers, banks, traders, civil societies, and consulting companies to share their experiences in joint efforts from a multi-stakeholder approach. It was aimed at initiating potential cooperation for both upstream and downstream players.
RSPO’s Head of China, Fang Lifeng, pointed out that the palm oil industry has also begun to pay attention to the emission reduction effect when purchasing RSPO sustainable palm oil. A life cycle assessment calculates that RSPO-certified palm oil emits 35 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional palm oil. RSPO’s China office will start conducting case studies and research to develop a business case that can be used to support companies to purchase RSPO palm oil.
“Hopefully this will help companies reduce their climate footprint across the supply chain, and contribute to the country's climate goals,” he said. Lifeng is glad to see strong political will in combating the effects of climate change and protecting biodiversity through China’s plans for an ecological civilisation. “As the world’s second biggest importer of palm oil, China’s commitment is key to shaping global green supply chains,” he said.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through credible global standards and engagement of stakeholders. RSPO is a not-for-profit, international, membership organisation that unites stakeholders from the different sectors of the palm oil industry including oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs, and social or developmental NGOs.
This multi-stakeholder representation is mirrored in the governance structure of RSPO such that seats in the Board of Governors, Steering Committees and Working Groups are fairly allocated to each sector. In this way, RSPO lives out the philosophy of the "roundtable" by giving equal rights to each stakeholder group, facilitating traditionally adversarial stakeholders in working together to reach decisions by consensus, and achieving RSPO’s shared vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.
The seat of the association is in Zurich, Switzerland, while the secretariat is currently based in Kuala Lumpur with satellite offices in Jakarta (ID), London (UK), Zoetermeer (NL), Beijing (CN), Bogotá (CO) and New York (NY).
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