New Government Report on Palm Oil Use Identifies Possible Policy Options

A new government report titled Mapping and Understanding UK Palm Oil Use has identified possible policy options to increase the volume of sustainable palm oil used in the UK. The use of by-products of the palm oil industry in animal feed as one of the main challenges facing the move towards use of only sustainable palm oil in the UK. The report also noted the importance of commitment by the biofuels and personal care product industries as crucial for success. In 2009 the UK imported 643,000 tons of palm oil, and 663,000 tons of palm kernel meal, the by-product of the palm oil industry that is commonly used in animal feed. Over 10% of the world’s entire production of palm kernel meal is used to feed animals in Britain.

The report which was compiled for Defra by Proforest was designed to inform the government of potential policy options relating to palm oil.

Palm oil plantations are one of the main causes of deforestation in South East Asia and are frequently established on peatland resulting in loss of biodiverse forests and high greenhouse gas emissions. Palm oil and palm kernel meal can be used in products as diverse as biofuels and confectionary.

Certification by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil was set up in 2004 as a standardised certification system for palm oil. Currently 24% palm oil is currently obtained from sustainable sources, with many supermarkets and manufacturers committed to becoming 100% sustainable by 2015. However the UK government has no policy of sustainability for palm oil, and many pubs, restaurants, and manufacturers of animal feed have made no commitment so far. The report suggested that more needs to be done to gain commitments from refineries, producers of personal care and cleaning products, and the biofuel sector to increase the volume of sustainable palm oil used during manufacturing.

The report identified five main policy options:
• Awareness raising campaigns.
• Goals for removing unsustainable palm oil from supply chains.
• Government procurement policy promoting sustainable palm oil within supply chains.
• Voluntary or mandatory reporting of companies’ performance
• Private sector due diligence demonstrating sustainable sourcing