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Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue India, 2020 (SPOD India 2020)
29 October 2020 | 11:45 – 13:15 IST
COVID19, cyclone Amphan and locust swarms are not just ‘extreme events’, they are telling of something very urgent and important. They are reminders for all of us to respect and recognise the natural ecosystem of our forests, mountains, lakes, rivers, animal kingdoms, oceans and life in general. Multiple reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), have explicitly highlighted the urgency for climate action. And now, with post COVID-19 unlockdowns increasing in parts of India, it is crucial to talk about ‘green growth’, a just recovery and to ‘build forward better’. We need to focus on long term and sustainability, not just short-term benefits which can create a domino effect potentially creating new problems.
As the largest importing country for edible oils and many other essential commodities, the Indian government and businesses have the opportunity to ask the supplying countries for deforestation and exploitation free supply chains. Deforestation, biodiversity loss and exploitation are a wide scale problems, which has roots in lack of responsible production – soybean, timber, pulp and paper, rubber, palm oil, sugar, cotton, tea, coffee, cocoa to name a few. As Indian consumers, both as individuals and businesses, we form one of the biggest markets globally with a growing population of more than 1.3 billion. That in itself is staggering and therefore we have the power to demand change structurally in the supply chains (which is also the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Responsible Production and Consumption).
Palm oil is one of the commodities which has been at the heart of this discussion for a long time. This led to the birth of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in the year 2004, to promote sustainable sourcing of palm oil. Palm oil is used for a variety of consumer goods both edible and non-edible. India is the largest importer of palm oil (approx. 9 millions MTs); an extremely versatile ingredient that is firmly a part of our daily lives. According to WWF, palm oil is present in close to 50% of the packaged goods we regularly buy from the supermarket or e-commerce platforms, from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick. It’s also used in animal feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world. It is tough to identify though, as palm oil and its derivatives can be labeled in numerous ways.
However, the oil palm is actually the most efficient oil crop on the planet in terms of yield versus land size, and the crop itself is not the problem – it’s the traditional methods in which oil palm has been produced and sourced that have given it such a bad reputation. It is commonly linked to deforestation and human rights abuses, yet millions of farmers and smallholders depend on this essential commodity for their livelihood, employment and income, leading many to question whether there is a way to balance the scale and produce palm oil sustainably
The simple answer is yes – there is a way. As a not-for-profit organisation, RSPO works with key stakeholders in the palm oil supply chain to develop and implement certification standards to ensure oil palm plantations are environmentally friendly and respect human and labour rights, among other criteria. One of the most dangerous outcomes of things remaining status quo (unsustainable palm oil production and trade) is on public health. In the case of Malaysia and Indonesia, it is the lack of stringent implementation of sustainable palm oil production standards that is causing massive forest fires every year leading to the transboundary haze. But India has the power to demand ‘Certified Sustainable Palm Oil’ (CSPO) at government and corporate policy levels. India can potentially be the game changer in mainstreaming deforestation and exploitation-free supply chains around the world.
According to a recent study by ‘Climate Advisers’, RSPO member companies outperformed non-RSPO member companies by over 24 percent. Twenty-five percent better in terms of their equity returns in the 2012-19 period. Therefore the business case for sustainable consumption and production is stronger than ever before. It is not an opportunity worth missing!
This session will bring together industry leaders to discuss this issue and distil key action areas where the industry can take a lead – and the supporting/enabling factors needed.
- Highlighting the role India can play in addressing the problem of deforestation in palm oil supply chain in South East Asian countries
- Build broader awareness about the subject of sustainable palm oil and the role brands and consumers can play
- Understand the perspectives of industry leaders about possible opportunities for and benefits from greater uptake of sustainable palm oil in India
KAMAL PRAKASH SETH
Country Head - India
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
Procter & Gamble
International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
Global Outreach & Engagement Director
Round table on Sustainable Palm Oil
Senior Vice President, Group Corporate Communication
ILSE VAN DIJL
Netherlands Embassy in India
Manager, Sustainable Agriculture (APAC and AMESA)