Europe has taken delivery of its first shipment of palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) initiative.
A tanker from Port Klang in Malaysia shipped the 500 tonnes of ethical oil to the Port of Rotterdam. Currently, palm oil is the world's primary vegetable oil, with 38 million tonnes produced in 2007. In Europe, it is used as an ingredient in about half of all packaged consumer products. However, such high demand for palm oil means production often leads to deforestation.
The RSPO, which was established in 2003, brings together growers, processors, retailers, investors and nongovernmental organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Oxfam International to create a supply chain of palm oil guaranteed to be produced in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.
The RSPO's principles prescribe that no primary rainforest should be sacrificed for oil-palm plantations and that growers and workers are treated fairly.
"The arrival of this first batch of oil is a small but significant step toward having all the world's palm oil produced in a socially and environmentally sustainable way," said Jan Kees Vis, president of the RSPO, and sustainable agriculture director at Unilever, which was among the first companies to purchase the oil delivered to Rotterdam.
RSPO-certified plantations produced 1.5 million tonnes of palm oil in 2008 — about 4 percent of global production capacity. Supply is forecast to double in 2009.