Members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) have reaffirmed commitments to protect valuable tropical forests, agreeing to uphold sustainability standards on new plantings and focus more attention on the rapidly growing Chinese and Indian markets.
A mother buys pizzas with her children. Many pizzas and other baked food products are made with or contain palm oil. [WWF]
The RSPO's 8th annual conference, which came to a close Thursday in Jakarta, was attended by 750 participants.
Representatives from buyers, producers, traders and social and environmental NGOs concluded the four-day meeting with a decision requiring plantation companies to show compliance with the RSPO criteria before starting new plantings.
"The decision to keep the new plantings procedure shows that palm oil growers in the RSPO are committed to protecting important tropical forests and wildlife," said Adam Harrison, WWF's representative on RSPO's executive board.
Members also approved a resolution that will hold buyers accountable to purchasing certified palm oil according to time bound plans.
Earlier in the week, roundtable members also voiced commitments during a special session to work together to galvanize the markets for sustainable palm oil in China and India, which represent 31 percent of total global consumption of palm oil.
"We need to get the Indian and the Chinese market involved, which is difficult to do. Both markets have only recently opened up to retail," said RSPO president Jan Kees Vis.
The RSPO said last month that about 60 percent of the sustainable palm oil produced has been bought this year. And in 2010's first quarter, the overall market uptake of sustainable palm oil was 95 percent.
There are currently 21 plantation companies that have gained RSPO certification, representing over 630,000 hectares of land and an annual production of 3.2 million tonnes of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.
"While encouraging, this is not enough to alleviate the pressure that growing demands for palm oil is having on the world's rainforests, which is why China and India are important markets," added Adam Harrison.
According to WWF, a global market shift toward more sustainable palm oil that truly helps to stem forest loss cannot happen until influential companies in China and India move toward sustainability.
WWF worked with other NGOs and the palm oil industry to set up the RSPO in 2003. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil has been available since November 2008 and provides assurance that valuable tropical forests have not been cleared and that environmental and social safeguards have been met during the production of the palm oil.