The Rainforest Alliance and Palm Oil
The Rainforest Alliance shares the concerns of many about the destructive impact of expanding oil palm plantations on the rainforests, particularly in Southeast Asia and especially on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Deforestation in this region, as in the Amazon, is one of the most urgent challenges facing environmentalists today.
The Rainforest Alliance's Sustainable Forestry division, working in concert with other non-governmental organizations, has for years worked to control logging in Indonesia and other threatened regions of the world. Rainforest Alliance certification is a powerful tool to address the urgent environmental and social problems posed by the expansion of oil palm plantations -- including the displacement of indigenous peoples, competition between large agribusinesses and local farmers for water and basic resources, and the impact of mass production on food prices and security. By working to promote the sustainable production and manufacturing of palm oil and palm kernel oil, we are mitigating the social and environmental impacts of a growing and important industry.
Certification has the ability to address these environmental issues and more, such as displacement of indigenous peoples, competition between large agribusinesses and local farmers for water and basic resources, and the impact of mass palm oil production on food prices and security.
In addition to supporting the efforts of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) the Rainforest Alliance has created its own rigorous, complementary certification system for oil palm, based on the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) standard. Farms that meet the exacting criteria of the SAN standard for palm oil can earn the Rainforest Alliance certificate.
In order to find out which oil palm farms have now achieved Rainforest Alliance certification, please visit Our Global Impact: Agriculture map.
The SAN standard was created in the tropics more than 15 years ago through a long process of research, experimentation and consultations that involved farmers, scientists, NGOs, universities, government agencies and agricultural companies. The process was led by biologists; protecting wildlife, rainforests and other tropical ecosystems was and remains a foremost objective.
The underlying causes of deforestation in Indonesia are complex. The Rainforest Alliance and SAN are working with other local and international NGOs to hold the loggers, plantation managers, miners, government agencies and other actors accountable for the declining forest and biodiversity in this region, as in other areas. We will put the spotlight on uncooperative and illegal operators and verify -- through the certification process -- the best management practices of progressive forest and plantation managers.
Palm oil is used in a range of products from food products to soaps, body care and cleaning products, and latterly in the production of biofuels. Focusing attention on one product which contains a small percentage of palm oil risks missing the bigger problem of needing to tackle the serious issue of how to increase the percentage of supply of palm oil which comes from sustainable sources. Currently this percentage is very low and given the commitment of many companies to source all their palm oil from sustainable sources by 2015 a lot of work needs to be done to ensure the availability of such supplies. The Rainforest Alliance accepts the practical realities of ensuring an adequate and traceable supply of palm oil from plantations that are certified as being well along the path toward sustainability. We, along with others, are working tirelessly to address this.
When the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal appears on multi-ingredient products, the ingredient which is covered by our standard is clearly and transparently labeled. This is the best practice policy across all independent certification systems. The Rainforest Alliance continues to work with those companies producing such mixed-ingredient products to bring other appropriate products under suitable, independent certification. In addition the Rainforest Alliance requires a risk assessment for these non-certified ingredients before the use of the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal is granted on these products.