Will Palm Oil Continue to Gobble Up Habitat for Wildlife?



RT13 opening ceremony tweet from HCV Network

Topics covered at last week’s Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) RT13 Conference ran the gambit from how to define a forest to making sure smallholders have access to the RSPO certification process.

Passage of a resolution to improve enforcement of RSPO certification standards by strengthening its third party auditor assessments was one key outcome of the conference. “Members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil passed a resolution to ramp up the quality and credibility of assessments on Thursday, shortly after a recent investigative report questioned the integrity of its certification.”

Another important outcome was the formal announcement of plans to launch RSPO Next in 2016. These voluntary criteria, which go beyond current RSPO standards, are intended to allow companies to meet their deforestation-free commitments while following RSPO guidelines. Once in place, realizing the potential value of these “voluntary, add-on standards” will depend on stakeholder support, “Palm oil growers need to commit to implement RSPO Next, palm oil buyers need to commit to buying it and NGOs and banks need to commit to support it."

great apesWhat role do zoos play in advancing progress within the RSPO? First and foremost we engage our audience – you! Across the miles, the Philadelphia Zoo has partnered with Oregon Zoo, Houston Zoo, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Woodland Park Zoo, Port Defiance Zoo and Aquarium, and even UK-based Chester Zoo to create palm oil programs with the goal of education and empowerment of people who care about wildlife. Visitors to these zoos – and their websites - can be a powerhouse for change when it comes to sharing consumer expectations with American and British companies about their use of deforestation-free palm oil.

As aptly tweeted from the RT13 conference by Erik Meijaard, founder of Borneo Futures,” As long as consumers don't care, good palm oil will be a hard sell.”

This Thanksgiving, send an UNLESS Project e-card to Mars, General Mills, or Kellogg’s. Tell them you’re thankful for the commitment they’ve made to use palm oil that doesn’t destroy habitat for orangutans and other animals, and ask them for an update on their progress.