This post is sponsored by Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

A couple of weeks ago, as I was reaching towards the Nutella in the pantry, I noticed that Palm Oil was one of the listed ingredients. “Isn’t that bad stuff?” I thought to myself as I pictured the destruction of forests in the name of my family’s love of Nutella. Then, within hours, I had an email from RSPO asking me if I would help them get the message out about good palm oil. Now I am not making this up for the benefit of storytelling, it actually happened, for real. And as soon as I received that email I rushed back to the pantry to check my Nutella jar. I can report, with much relief, that Nutella in fact uses Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), i.e. “good palm oil”. If you are asking, “what is sustainable palm oil?” then read on!

I am sure that similar to my knowledge of palm oil, you know some vague information about forests being destroyed, in turn damaging ecosystems and putting many species of animals at risk of extinction. It’s not a pretty picture to imagine and does make you question the impact of what you are eating. When you pair this with a few palm oil facts, it is quite frightening:

  • Over 50% of supermarket goods for sale contain palm oil. Everything from margarine to chocolate, donuts and cookies.
  • 70% of the world’s cosmetics and household detergents, yes that’s right, things such as lipstick, shampoo and soap, contain raw materials derived from palm oil.
  • 74.01 million tonnes of palm oil was consumed globally in 2014. By 2020 this number is expected to reach 128.20 million tonnes.

With such a reliance on palm oil across so many products, the question for me is, what can we actually do? The answer is twofold – firstly awareness and then driving demand for the good stuff.

What is sustainable palm oil?

Good palm oil, or Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO), meets a set of environmental and social criteria, developed in 2008 by the RSPO. These criteria cover things like where palm oil can and can’t be farmed; the use of pesticides in farming, the treatment of workers and community involvement prior to the development of new plantations. It is only through meeting these criteria that producers can claim to use/sell sustainable palm oil. This infographic might help with understanding the difference between the good stuff and the bad stuff:

what is sustainable palm oil - infographic

Who are the RSPO?

It’s all well and good for someone to go around handing out a stamp of approval, but who are the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil? They were established in 2004 as a not-for-profit and bring together stakeholders from across the palm oil industry: oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs). And they have a big goal. To achieve 100% CSPO by 2020. This figure currently sits at just 17% so it is no easy task.

But the RSPO believe the goal is realistic but also vital. Vital for protecting land, communities, workers rights and valuable species who will otherwise become extinct. Without CSPO the situation is pretty grim. I admire what the RSPO are doing. You might ask, why we can’t just use another oil and the answer is that the production of other vegetable oils creates similar, if not larger, environmental issues. Not to mention the loss of income that would be suffered by those relying on the industry for their income. To put it in perspective, that figure is 4.5 million people in Indonesia and Malaysia alone.

what is certified sustainable palm oil

What can we all do?

Reading this is the first step to knowing the difference between good and bad palm oil, and why it even matters. You can read further on good palm oil and what it means at the Say yes to good palm oil microsite or on the RSPO website.

Next, you should look for this logo when shopping to identify products containing palm oil of the good type.


Finally, spreading the message to friends and family will also go along way to creating that important awareness that is needed to make the RSPO goal a reality. Share this video to get them thinking about what type of palm oil is in the food they are eating!

So the next time you reach for that jar of Nutella in the pantry, or any other item for that matter, have a look at the label. Chances are it contains palm oil, but is it the good stuff?

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