Palm oil and climate change

A A A

Palm oil is an inescapable part of everyday life. As the new research from the Independent shows, it is now virtually impossible to avoid buying products that contain palm oil in every supermarket, chemist and sweet shop in Britain. Considering the fact that this commodity is now one of the most environmentally damaging on earth, this can seem like a gloomy prospect - but there are a few reasons for hope.

In Indonesia, the picture is extremely worrying. In the last two decades, millions of hectares of rainforest have been destroyed to make way for new plantations. Peat forests and swamps which have stood for centuries are being chopped down, drained and burned, to be replaced with gigantic monoculture crops. This systematic destruction is now responsible for an astonishing four percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and the orang-utan, perhaps the most potent symbol of man’s kinship with nature, could be less than ten years from extinction.

This crisis stems from the failure of the industry to grasp the consequences of explosive, unrestrained growth. It was not until 2003 that attempts were made to slow the destruction by creating the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO), a body which brought together growers, transporters and consumers of palm oil. It set criteria for companies who wished to claim that their oil was “sustainable”, allowing them to benefit from the good PR that this kind of initiative can bring. Yet six years later only a trickle of certified palm oil has entered the marketplace, and some RSPO members freely admit that it is failing to achieve its objectives. Meanwhile RSPO member companies operating in Indonesia are able to use the organisation to burnish their green credentials whilst simultaneously destroying rainforests with impunity.

British companies have a key role to play here. Some are rightly frustrated by the slow progress of the Roundtable and are looking to do more, by engaging with their suppliers and supporting campaigns for an end to rainforest clearance for palm oil. Others insist that their influence is limited, but Greenpeace believes that all UK retailers and manufacturers have powerful tools at their disposal. If these companies were to cancel their purchasing contracts with the worst offending palm oil producers, it would reverberate through the industry. This kind of financial signal would enable those producers who are committed to sustainability to come to the fore, offering the British consumer the chance to support environmentally responsible palm oil for the very first time.

The sheer number of products that contain palm oil can seem daunting. But with consumer pressure, industry leadership and political incentives these tropical rainforests can be placed off limits - for good.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones