TFT would like to thank everyone for attending Australia’s first industry-lead Palm Oil Seminar, held in Melbourne on 21 July 2015.
The seminar brought together brands, buyers, suppliers and NGOs who shared a common objective: to openly discuss the risks and options around the use of palm oil in products sold in Australia. The event was well attended and received positive feedback with requests for future industry-lead events on palm oil and other international supply chains.
The day began with accounts from NGO’s who work on the ground in countries where palm oil is produced, sharing their real life experiences with the impacts of deforestation and human exploitation, which still occurs in the industry. The efforts of many stakeholders to overcome these issues were discussed, including the benefits, as well as the limitations, of certification i.e. the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
We heard from two of the world’s largest suppliers of palm oil in Wilmar International and Sime Darby, who explained their efforts with both certification and with their own company lead policies. The rapid rise of ‘No Deforestation’ policies and the role they play in driving industry change beyond certification was also discussed.
The role of advocacy groups was also discussed, such as Australian based volunteer group; Palm Oil Investigations (POI), whose Facebook page reach is on average 1.2 to 2.2 million people. POI explained the growing public interest in their barcode scanning smart-phone app, which helps consumers make informed decision at the supermarket shelf (approximately 50% of all supermarket packaged products contain palm oil).
Representatives from the global brands Nestlé and Ferrero together with local New Zealand brand Ecostore presented their strategies. The challenges and importance of sourcing fully traceable oil and engaging with the supply chain was highlight. The final session was an open discussion highlighting many important messages of the day, which included:
- Palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil to grow, (meaning it requires less land than leading alternatives) and the industry is bringing millions of people out of poverty – avoiding its use as an Australian brand will not help the issue.
- Around 20% of the industry is RSPO certified and this standard has limitations such as with reach, especially to smaller sized growers who represent a large and growing share, and in focusing on the key issues, in particular deforestation.
- New initiatives such as ‘No Deforestation’ and ‘No Exploitation’ policies lead by both buyers (brands and processors) and growers, compliment but are not limited by certification, and now cover over 95% of the industry.
- “Conservation is critical but also expensive” – Simon Siburat, Wilmar International. The cost is both the opportunity cost (e.g. reduced area to plant oil palm) as well as the cost to assess, monitor and manage conservation areas ongoing. The industry needs incentives and direct support programs with help from every stakeholder along the supply-value chain, including Australian brands.
- Australian business can make meaningful change, reduce risk of negative publicity, build stakeholder relations and add value to your brand by making a strong palm oil sourcing policy commitment that builds traceability and actively supports change on the ground. “Brands need to step up and start tracking their palm oil supply to ensure it is not contributing to the devastation on the ground” – Lorinda Jane, POI.
- The importance of engaging now, rather than making longer term commitments (e.g. 2020) which have little practical meaning unless backed up by clear action plans, milestones and reporting of progress. To quote Grant Rosoman from Greenpeace; “If you’re not moving, you’re a target”.
TFT would like to thank everyone for your attendance and especially the speakers:
- Scott Poynton – Founder, TFT
- Hardi Baktiantoro – Founder, Centre For Orangutan Protection
- Panut Hadisiswoyo – Founder, Orangutan Information Centre
- Simon Lord – Executive Vice President, Sime Darby Berhad
- Simon Siburat – GM Group Sustainability, Wilmar International
- Grant Rosoman – Solutions Coordinator, Greenpeace
- Lorinda Jane – Founder, Palm Oil Investigations
- Malcolm Rands – Founder, Ecostore
- Margaret Stuart – Corporate and External Relations Manager, Nestle Australia
- Derek Lath – Institutional Affairs Director, Ferrero Australia
- Kevin O’Grady – Director, Pinnacle Quality
- As well as the seminar’s MC – Natalie Sady