The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network driven by its members to encourage the adoption of practices and standards that serve the consumer goods industry worldwide, has announced publication of the first-ever Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Guidelines. This publicly available document is an important step in helping the consumer goods and retail industries to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, as outlined in the CGF’s Deforestation Resolution.
The Guidelines are intended to assist companies in designing their own policies for sourcing palm oil more sustainably, and were developed by CGF retailer and manufacturer members, with input from standard-setting organizations, NGOs, banks and suppliers. The Guidelines will serve as a ‘live’ tool for companies sourcing palm oil as the document will be updated as the landscape evolves.
A key feature of the Guidelines is a two-stage approach that lays out steps to enable companies (from any industry) to start the journey to sustainable palm oil, together with further steps necessary for a fully sustainable palm oil supply.
Ignacio Gavilan, Director of Sustainability at The Consumer Goods Forum, said, “The publication of the ‘Sustainable Palm Oil Sourcing Guidelines’ is another important step forward for our industry, and it’s a testament to what can result from effective cross-sector collaboration. This isn’t just a document from The Consumer Goods Forum, it’s a document that is built on a global industry’s commitment to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020, and several stakeholders have been involved in getting it to this point.”
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Palm Oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Malaysia and Indonesia are leading producers, accounting for 86 percent of global production. Although potentially one of the more sustainable vegetable oils, there is serious concern that rapid expansion of palm oil plantations has on occasions resulted in loss of valuable tropical forests and social conflict.
Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO at Mondelēz International and CGF Board member, said, “I urge CGF members and other companies sourcing palm oil to adopt these guidelines to help make sustainable palm oil the mainstream option.”
Mike Barry, Director of Sustainable Business (Plan A) at Marks & Spencer and Co-Chair of the CGF's Sustainability Pillar, said, "These guidelines give CGF members a roadmap to sustainable palm oil sourcing. They enable all companies, multinational and local, to play their part in delivering the CGF commitment to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020."
While the CGF is proud of the Guidelines, it also appreciates that this is just a first step and that much more is yet to be done. The CGF will continue to work collaboratively with palm oil producers, processors, banks and NGOs, to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil.
A series of webinars will be organized later this year to walk members through the Guidelines and answer any questions.
A CGF representative told Sustainable Brands that its guidelines are asking companies to comply with existing Principles & Criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the industry-standard certifier, or equivalent standards; and, in addition, consider developing an approach for addressing certain criteria that go beyond current RSPO certification standards. But in early June, institutional investors representing more than $4 trillion in assets joined over a dozen food/beverage and personal care brands — including CGF members Mars, PepsiCo, Kellogg Company, P&G, J&J and Colgate-Palmolive — in calling on RSPO to strengthen what many have come to consider loose standards for certifying the sustainable production of palm oil. The companies and investors submitted a letter to RSPO calling on the organization to prohibit deforestation in palm oil supply chains and include additional environmental and human rights protections. Later that month, Rainforest Action Network released a progress report ranking the relative strength of commitments against Conflict Palm Oil made by what it calls the Snack Food 20 — the report highlighted companies including Mondelēz International, Hershey, Nestlé and Mars as frontrunners, while laggards included Mac N Cheese, Sara Lee, Pepperidge Farm, Top Ramen, Cup Noodle, Heinz/Kraft and Weight Watchers.