Hard work finding eco-palm oil goods

Hard work finding eco-palm oil goods
It is not easy to certify small growers, such as these villagers burning the waste from oil palm kernels in Indonesia.

SINGAPORE - Shoppers here can buy Fair Trade coffee, organic chocolate and Singapore Green Label notebooks. But they will struggle to find such labels for sustainable palm oil.

Sumatran palm oil plantations clearing land by burning are being blamed for last month's haze, the worst ever recorded in Singapore.

Many people have suggested consumers put pressure on the industry to become more transparent.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said during the crisis: "I am sure consumers will know what to do."

Sustainably grown and independently certified palm oil is available. About 16 per cent of the world's palm oil is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or RSPO - a global association of industry and non-government organisations.

But the products here bearing the RSPO trademark, meaning they are made with palm oil produced in an eco-friendly way, consists of just a handful of Body Shop soaps.

Complex supply chains and low palm oil prices mean few manufacturers use only certified palm oil. Oftentimes, firms which commit to buy this will mix it with non-certified oil, so they do not have to build separate processing plants - that way, they can still hit their certified targets.

Alternatively, they buy GreenPalm certificates to show they support the sustainable version. Growers get a certificate for each tonne of sustainable palm oil produced. Buyers in distant countries can purchase these certificates to offset physical sustainable oil if there is none readily available.

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