New laws, which came into effect on 13 December 2014, mean that food products sold in the European Union must state the type of any oil or fat ingredient, including palm oil. Unsustainable production of palm oil has led to the destruction of habitats of many endangered species, including tigers and orangutans.
Elizabeth Clarke, business and biodiversity programme manager at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), comments: “We welcome these legislation changes to make food labels more transparent. By ensuring palm oil is clearly labelled, rather than simply calling it vegetable oil, it will allow consumers to make a more informed choice about their food shopping. In particular, we hope that retailers and manufacturers will respond by ensuring that their products are made using 100% certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), defined as compliant with the requirements of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification scheme.
“Palm oil production is vital to the economies of countries where it is grown, but it also has serious negative environmental impacts, particularly if grown unsustainably. We are working with the industry to promote sustainable practices and responsible investment through our new Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT). More is needed to reduce pressures on wildlife, ensuring a future for the remaining 300 Sumatran tigers whose habitat is at severe risk of being lost from deforestation as a result of irresponsible practices.
“Boycotting palm oil is not a practical solution as it will simply increase demand for other vegetable oils that require more than five times as much land to produce the same yield. While this increase in transparency is a step in the right direction, there is still more work to be done to improve the sustainability of the palm oil industry. In the future, we would like to see all products, not just food, be clearly labelled, and displaying the trademark logo of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).”
In 2014 we launched the online Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT), a ground-breaking new project to transform how oil palm growers are monitored on their commitments to environmental and social best practice. As part of ZSL’s industry information website, the Sustainable Palm Oil Platform (SPOP), the Toolkit combines satellite mapping technology with in-depth performance assessments on 25 of the largest publicly listed companies that grow oil palm.