Cargill Sets Sustainable Goals for Palm Oil, But Are They Too Little, Too Late?

palm oil photo

Image: Marufish via flickr

Agribusiness giant Cargill has announced plans to offer only sustainably-certified palm oil by 2015 for certain countries, including the U.S., and by 2020 worldwide. On the surface, that sounds like a positive step forward, but on closer look, it seems like just another empty PR move.

The earlier goal does not include palm kernel oil—which is produced from the same trees as palm oil and is nearly ubiquitous on food and cosmetic labels on supermarket shelves the world. And why wait nine years to put a policy into place that could literally make a difference in whether or not the rainforests of Indonesia survive? Those rainforests are important because they are the sole remaining habitat for endangered animals like orangutans, and because they are such huge carbon sinks. Deforestation alone has led Indonesia to be the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world. Because palm oil is the largest driver of this deforestation, it has been the focus of campaigns targeting companies and products from Nestle to Girl Scout Cookies.

So if Cargill is going to make an effort toward corporate responsibility and sustainability when it comes to sourcing palm oil, it should be legit.

GreenBiz quotes Ashley Schaeffer from Rainforest Action Network, which has criticized the goals as not enough: "Waiting until 2020 for a global commitment around certified sustainable palm oil is just waiting too long. Too much is at stake."

Plus, the very certification that Cargill plans to use, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, is not necessarily reliable—or even, to some, a straight-up farce.

"Right now Cargill is putting all of their eggs in the RSPO basket, and it's riddled with holes," Schaeffer told GreenBiz. "We can't trust that RSPO is indeed enforcing their principles and criteria."

More on the palm oil industry:
Palm Oil Giant Agrees to Set More Sustainable Standards in Indonesia
More Dirty Deforestation: 55% of Indonesia's Logging Illegal + Cargill's Two Hidden Palm Oil Plantations
Palm Oil Lobby Fights World Bank's Environmental Initiatives in Indonesia, Malaysia

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