Kuala Lumpur, 10/4/2018 - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, the world’s largest palm oil certification scheme, shares Iceland’s concerns about the environmental impact of palm oil, but does not agree with the solutions Iceland are adopting.

Quote by Darrel Webber, RSPO’s CEO:

“We fully share Iceland’s concerns about the environmental impact of palm oil, but we do not agree with the solutions they are adopting. Before getting rid of palm oil, we should ask ourselves: what is the impact of the alternatives? We should let consumers know that palm trees produce 4 to 10 times more oil per hectare than any other oil crop. Therefore eliminating palm oil might lead to the use of more land with higher risks of deforestation. What if we were to discover that palm oil is replaced by butter from cows fed with unsustainable soy grown at the expense of Amazon forest instead? If Iceland want to guarantee that their oils and fats sourcing is not causing rainforest destruction, they should work with the rest of the supply chain to promote the use of sustainable standards, such as RSPO, with a view to improve the sustainability of the entire market”

Removing palm oil all together is not the solution.

There is a misconception that the social and environmental concerns around palm oil can be addressed if companies simply stop using palm oil in their products and replace it with other types of oil. However, this is not as easy as it sounds for a number of reasons:

1.       By eliminating palm oil from the equation, demand would shift to other vegetable oils. This would increase the sustainability problems because compared to other crops, like soybean, sunflower or rapeseed, oil palms produce by far the most vegetable oil per hectare of land (4-10 times more), so switching to other vegetable oils may very well result in more primary forests being converted into agricultural land, not less.

2.       In producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil would mean these people will no longer be able to support their families.

3.       Replacing palm oil with other types of oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as a food ingredient. Using other oils would not give the products the same texture and taste that palm oil offers.

For sustainability reasons, it is better to switch to sustainable palm oil than to other vegetable oils.

This is confirmed also by a WWF Germany report, “Searching for alternatives”. According to the report “the one-to-one substitution of palm oil with other tropical plant oils would not meet the desired objectives. Soya and coconut oil grow in similar or ecologically similarly sensitive regions, and therefore the replacement of one oil for another would not solve the problem but only shift it elsewhere and, in part, even exacerbate it. More land would be required, more greenhouse gas emissions would be generated, and more species would be endangered.”

Report available here: https://mobil.wwf.de/fileadmin/fm-wwf/Publikationen-PDF/WWF_Report_Palm_Oil_-_Searching_for_Alternatives.pdf


Contacts: Please contact the RSPO media team: Giovanni Colombo, Phone +32 473 844 903 – Email: [email protected]


Additional Information

About the RSPO -The largest sustainable palm oil certification scheme:

  • We are a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from the 7 sectors of the palm oil industry: oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
  • The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.
  • The RSPO has more than 3,700 members from 91 countries, who represent all links along the palm oil supply chain. They have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO.


Key criteria for RSPO:


  • Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources
  • Any development on Indigenous Peoples’ land can only be done with their free, prior and informed consent.


  • RSPO members cannot cut down primary forests, and have not been able to since 2005.
  • Must undertake a High Conservation Value Assessment before planting (see below)

·         RSPO Members may only use pesticides in ways which do not endanger health or the environment

  • A High Conservation Value (HCV) assessment must be carried out by a licensed HCV assessor before any planting can be undertaken. The HCV assessment measures whether any land to be developed can be considered as being of High Conservation Value based on environmental, social or cultural criteria (HCV values can be found here: https://www.hcvnetwork.org/about-hcvf/the-six-high-conservation-values). Should the area to be developed contain any of these high conservation values, development is prohibited.

Rainforest impact

Whilst, the rate of deforestation has slowed in recent years (according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation), combating deforestation remains a pressing priority.  
Currently, RSPO certification covers 2.56 million ha and accounts for 19% of global palm oil production (11.86 million tonnes).  
According to our impact report, the total High Conservation Value area set aside within RSPO Certified concessions amounts to 189,777 ha, an increase of 21% since the last reporting period. We have come a long way from where we stood in 2004 and the set aside areas have helped to slow down deforestation, but more work needs to be done. Too many palm oil plantations are still outside the scope of our certification, and this is one the main reasons why deforestation is still continuing and remains an issue of major concern.


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