New Delhi [India], Sept 13 : A report released by WWF-India highlighted that Indian companies could play a crucial role in promoting sustainable production of palm oil and offers practical solutions relevant for the Indian market.
The report titled 'Palm Lines - Envisioning a sustainable future for the Indian palm oil industry' states that India, being the largest consumer of palm oil in the world, could provide suitable initiatives for sustainable production of palm oil, adding that more than 96 percent of it is imported, primarily from Indonesia and Malaysia.
"This report sets out a goal for India, as the world's largest palm oil market, to shift towards sustainable consumption of palm oil. The proposed solutions are recommended with sensitivity to the challenges and uniqueness of the Indian market," said Ravi Singh, Secretary General and CEO, WWF-India.
Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world and one of the most productive oil seeds. However, large scale conversion of tropical forests to palm oil plantations has led to several negative environmental and social impacts in these producer countries. According to the report, such intensive production systems not only result in ecosystem destruction and associated biodiversity losses, but also adversely impact climate change.
Unsustainable palm oil production has also been associated with irresponsible use of fertilizers, labour rights violations, health and safety issues and displacement of indigenous people.
'Sustainable palm oil' is palm oil that is produced in a responsible manner, with low impacts on forests, biodiversity and society in producer regions. To achieve this, a series of approaches ranging from voluntary standards, regulation, and corporate commitments to traceable and sustainable sourcing have emerged.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a multi-stakeholder platform that brings together representatives from across the value chain to promote the adoption of certified sustainable palm oil, which is produced based on a set of responsible environmental and social criteria. WWF supports the RSPO certification standard as the best opportunity for global transformation, while recognizing that the scheme must improve in certain areas.
The report recommends a set of approaches to increase the adoption of sustainable palm oil in the Indian market through constructive industry engagement. These recommendations include low-cost solutions, such as use of the Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT), developed by ZSL, for supplier screening as an interim option; implementation of sustainable sourcing commitments by global fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands; and fostering industry collaboration through an industry forum across the value chain.
Tariff-based policy interventions, promotion of responsible domestic production through sustainability frameworks like RSPO and advocating deforestation-free portfolios through green finance in the sector are the other solutions that are also outlined in this report.
According to the report, 90-95 percent of the total palm oil is consumed as edible oil, while the remaining 5-10 percent is used in personal care and cosmetics. While a handful of Indian companies are driving a progressive agenda to promote sustainable practices, there is a lot that remains to be done.
Despite the marked increase in the awareness levels on the sustainability issues, linked to palm oil and the solutions, the uptake of sustainable palm oil in the Indian industry is limited.