14 July 2010 | Angeline Albert
Companies from across the palm oil supply chain attended the first Global Business of Biodiversity symposium in London yesterday to discuss how to develop mainstream sustainable palm oil.
Business leaders and experts from around the world, including palm oil producers from Indonesia and Malaysia, Shell, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and Nestlé who attended the meeting arranged by the UK and Dutch governments to discuss sustainable sourcing. M&S and Nestlé have committed to buy only from certified sources by 2015.
The UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said only 4 per cent of the global supply of palm oil is certified sustainable.
Attendees were told a research project, announced by the UK government’s environment secretary Caroline Spelman, would map out the UK’s consumption of imported palm oil; find out how much is sustainably sourced; and understand how changes can be made to lessen the environmental damage.
Spelman said: “Consumers and industry have the power to save rainforests and wildlife in areas such as south east Asia. But, in the case of palm oil, we need to know more about our consumption in order to find solutions. We’re hoping to get these answers with the project starting next month which will map our use of palm oil. The initial findings of the research will be announced early in 2011.”
Defra is set to begin work with the Chinese government this month to encourage the sourcing of sustainable palm oil by Chinese firms. China is the world’s largest consumer of the product.
Some 80 per cent of palm oil is used for food. As a result of rising food demand and the need for biofuels to meet EU renewable transport fuel targets, world demand for palm oil is forecast to almost double from 2000 levels by 2020.