I’ve talked about this before and back off when push came to shove because I wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it. I wanted to badly to say ‘hey this isn’t about you’ and yet stand firm in my dissent. I understand that that people involved in this discussion are people that care who are trying to do the right thing. This isn’t about them. This is about an industry and a culture that’s evolved to create demand for consumer goods.
Palm oil as a whole is not sustainable.
Yes I know this debate is getting old but give me a minute. You know the blue jar of paint I’m trying to sell you is blue and not green despite its label because you can see it’s blue. Despite the fact that they all look the same, you know the apples you purchased are local because you spoke to the man who grew them. What about things that look the same but come from someplace you can’t see, someplace you don’t know how do you know? There are governmental agencies and third party certifying bodies. They know what they’re doing so you can take them at their word, right?
All third parties are not created equal. So which ones do you trust? That’s up to everyone to decide for themselves. Personally, organizations funded by an industry are viewed skeptically. They’re trying to do the right thing, but at the same time they need to make a profit. The RSPO (The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm) talks about making palm oil production sustainable. To an extent this is possible. Environmental mitigation can be put in place (although I’m not sure if it has been) for plantations and production facilities already in existence, but that’s not the real issue.
The issue is rooted in the demand for palm oil. Palm oil is in everything from food, to cosmetics and detergents. Farmers in Southeast Asia are clearing huge sections of rainforest to grow the palm species used in palm oil production. I don’t think there’s anyone who would argue this is sustainable.
What can consumers do about this? Find products that are palm oil free, to reduce demand and decrease the incentives to replace the rainforest with palm. If you can find locally produced substitutes for these products. If for whatever reason this proves to be impossible find products containing palm oil that’s been certified sustainable by the RSPO.
Personally, as I’ve said, I avoid palm oil. Yes sustainable palm isn’t all bad if it in fact is truly sustainable, but when meeting the current demand for palm oil requires the continued reforestation of large areas of rainforest with either non-native species or with monculutres I can’t get behind it.