Sustainable choices on palm oil must be easier for consumers, says new study

Maybe they can add a #virtuesignal tag? ~ctm

From EurekAlert!

Public Release: 3-Jan-2019

Sustainable choices on palm oil must be easier for consumers, says new study

IOP Publishing

Consumer goods companies and retailers need to be upfront about where palm oil in their products comes from to relieve consumers of the burden of making sustainable choices.

That is a key finding of new research from the University of Cambridge (UK). It publishes today in Environmental Research Letters.

Palm oil production causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions from peatland conversion, and biodiversity loss, but it is found in many products, often unbeknownst to consumers. It is a common ingredient in foods, body products, detergents, and biofuels.

Dr Rosemary Ostfeld, from the University of Cambridge, is the study’s lead author. She said: “The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has made efforts to improve the sustainability of palm oil production by creating an environmental certification system for palm oil.

“But currently only 19 percent of palm oil is RSPO-certified. This means the majority that finds its way into products people buy daily is still produced using conventional practices.

“We wanted to find out if consumers were actively seeking to make a sustainable choice about palm oil. We also explored what extra efforts governments could make to ensure sustainable palm oil consumption.”

The researchers surveyed 1,695 British consumers through the market research company YouGov. Respondents were asked about their awareness of palm oil and its environmental impact; their recognition of ‘ecolabels’ such as Fairtrade, the Soil Association, and RSPO; and which ecolabelled products they included in their weekly household shopping.

They found UK consumer awareness of palm oil was high (77 percent), with 41 percent of those aware of it viewing it as ‘environmentally unfriendly’. Yet, almost no consumers were aware of the RSPO label that showed a product contained sustainably-produced palm oil.

“In terms of label recognition versus action, 82 percent of people recognised the Fairtrade label, but only 29 percent actively buy Fairtrade products,” said Dr Ostfeld.

“Only five percent recognised the RSPO label – the same as a fictional label we put into the survey as a control. Of that small number, only one percent said they actively include products with the label in their shopping.”

The low recognition of the RSPO label could be due to the scarcity of its use by consumer goods companies and retailers.

Dr Ostfeld suggested: “This may be due in part to reluctance to draw attention to their use of palm oil, or it may be because they fall short of the 95 percent physical certified palm oil content that used to be needed to use the label.

“Either way, we found that relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations. Our results show that even when consumer awareness of an ecolabel is high, action is not guaranteed.”

To address this problem, the researchers put forward several policy recommendations.

Dr Ostfeld explained: “Palm oil is more efficient to produce than other vegetable oils and plays a vital role in the livelihoods of millions of people, so banning it is not plausible. Instead, the goal should be to encourage sustainable palm oil production.

“We recommend governments require consumer goods companies and retailers to buy identity-preserved certified palm oil, which can be traced back to the individual plantation. If national targets must be met with identity-preserved certified palm oil, demand for it will increase. It will also enable unsustainable practices to be uncovered more easily.

“Companies should also publicly disclose their palm oil suppliers. This will help consumers know if they’re sourcing their palm oil from growers who use best practices.

“We believe these measures could promote a more rapid move towards sustainable palm oil consumption, and higher levels of accountability throughout the supply chain.”


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January 5, 2019 6:14 pm

too little too late….but boy did it make them all feel good at the time

forests are gone now…and the orangutans are considered a pest

January 5, 2019 6:16 pm

Blatant advertisement for RSPO. Maximize your virtue signalling while sharing in your efforts.

Sweet Old Bob
January 5, 2019 6:16 pm

Oil whose palm ?
Politicians ?

Bill Powers
Reply to  Sweet Old Bob
January 6, 2019 3:25 am

Uh huh, follow the money

Tom Halla
January 5, 2019 6:21 pm

This is the first time I have ever seen any mention of the RSPO, and I flatter myself that I am reasonably well read on the subject. The whole notion of certifying agencies depends of the reputation and record of the agency, and for all I know the RSPO is nothing but greenwashing. Or it could be quite rigorous. But it is nearly unknown.

Kaiser Derden
January 5, 2019 6:28 pm

Last time I checked Palm trees are not in danger of dying out … so sustainability seems to be guaranteed …

Reply to  Kaiser Derden
January 5, 2019 8:01 pm

Renewable energy technologies have caused enormous harm through clear-cutting of rainforests (palm oil for biodiesel and sugar cane ethanol (for gasoline engines), excessive drawdown of the vital Ogallala aquifer (corn ethanol and biodiesel), destabilization of the electrical grid (wind power), increase in food costs (corn ethanol and other biofuels), and increase in energy costs (~all renewables).

The Greens are responsible for clear-cutting the rainforests and other environmental disasters.

January 5, 2019 6:40 pm

Every new layer of consumer protection is a moar-money-magnet for siphoning public funds. Pay up, its for your own good.

Dave Fair
January 5, 2019 6:54 pm

Hey! I’ve got a great idea! Lets create a few more government bureaucracies to tell people what to do concerning things that mean nothing! That’ll solve all the world’s problems! Why spend all that time and trouble working on real problems like poverty, malnutrition, sex slave trade, genocide, etc.?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Dave Fair
January 5, 2019 7:17 pm

I think Fawlty Towers explored that possibility, or w as it George Castanza on Seinfeld. Both thought they were making comedy, though.

Rich Davis
Reply to  Dave Fair
January 6, 2019 5:57 am

The outage that we discovered was that the Government is spending LESS on the Ministry for Silly Walks than they spend on National Defence.

January 5, 2019 7:19 pm

“Palm oil production causes deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions […] and biodiversity loss…”

And so does wheat, corn, soy, cotton, rice, rapeseed, grape, strawberry etc., etc., etc. production. Where to start?

Reply to  DHR
January 5, 2019 7:40 pm

Not in the same way or magnitude of destruction that recent slash and burn of existing intact jungle to create a palm oil plantation. Comparing an intact jungle ecosystem complete with thousands of species as compared to a prairie habitat that now grows wheat is not even close to factual. We don’t need to support the wholesale destruction of jungle ecosystems for a quick rotation of a palm oil plantation. But I understand why Brazil and SE Asia want to share in economic growth. That’s a tough question, but we all know we want to preserve what we can of our highest and most productive jungle biosphere.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Earthling2
January 5, 2019 8:10 pm

Earthling2: clearly you are not from Earth#1. Are you totally unaware that it was the EU that got these countries (paid their despot friends) to clear cut their jungles, force the people living there out, including pygmies in Cameroon who lived a hunting and gathering life, yank all the terrified orangutangs, monkeys, and other creatures out and plant hundreds of km2 palm oil plantations for running ‘sustainable” EU diesel cars until they discovered the emissions from them were killing off their citizenry. So they stopped diesel car manufacture and stopped buying the Palm oil! If you can stand the full diatribe without any trigger warnings :

Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 5, 2019 11:49 pm

‘Earthling2: clearly you are not from Earth#1.”

Not sure what your point was Gary, since I said and I quote…”Comparing an intact jungle ecosystem complete with thousands of species as compared to a prairie habitat that now grows wheat is not even close to factual” after I said “We don’t need to support the wholesale destruction of jungle ecosystems for a quick rotation of a palm oil plantation.”

So what do you think I said that so offends you as to tell me I am not from Earth#1?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  Earthling2
January 6, 2019 1:57 am

Earthling, perhaps I misconstrued where you were coming from. If so, I apologize. I agree with your case for the comparative superiority of a native jungle, of course, but It appeared to me you were unaware that it was the EU that created this terrible crime, holding out inducements of cash and particularly future cash that hasn’t been forthcoming in making these poor countries “partners” in saving the planet. Then, changing their minds and washing their hands of it and even putting an EU standard on to restrict even the now tiny market for this enormously costly and useless neocolonial tsunami for the poor countries to deal with.

A dynamic not as well appreciated as it should be is the fact that the peoples who lived and depended on these jungles are of a different tribe than the rulers of these countries and summarily removing these “inferior”people using the army with the same disregard that they had fot the animals and the ecological value of these natural settings is apalling.

I have a soft spot particularly for Africa having first gone to Nigeria in the mid 1960s as a geologist employed by the Geological Survey. Since, I have undertaken projects in Tanzania, DR Congo, Benin, Togo, Guinea-Bissau and Angola and visited a half dozen others. So issues like this rile me up a lot.

Reply to  Earthling2
January 6, 2019 4:13 am

I was unaware Gary, that it was the EU that sponsored much of this needless requirement for a ‘green bio-diesel’ so I appreciate your comment about the source of this deliberate destruction of an intact jungle complete with complex human and multiple various species, including endangered primates. I completely agree that this is unacceptable. Perhaps you misunderstood my comparison of a simple prairie landscape with a complex jungle. Apology accepted and I learn something new. It doesn’t surprise me that it would be something like the EU that would promote this wanton destruction for a supposed green utilizaton for a ‘green biodiesel’ that they deliberately wipe out a complex ecosystem in the name of supposedly being green. I agree…that is criminal. Skeptics don’t support this kind of irresponsibility and I am surprised that every environmental organization on Earth isn’t pointing this out about the EU policies. And now they abandon diesel anyway, so the hypocrisy is just so much more brazen.

Reply to  Earthling2
January 6, 2019 10:58 am

The EU is driving this because they are the prototype for the UN Agenda 21/30. Note that this article combines “sustainable production” with “sustainable consumption”. That means they can tell you where, how and how much you can produce, and either control or mandate consumption. Regulatory heaven requiring global governance. The word sustainable has become the slogan for all things UN/left.

Dave Fair
Reply to  R2Dtoo
January 6, 2019 11:10 am

Also throw in social justice, gender equity, poverty eradication through redistribution, climate justice and whatnot. As long as the UN, especially through the IPCC, keeps up this nonsense it will remain (thankfully) ineffectual.

Note that none of the usual suspects harp on the UN IPCC SR15 conclusions. They can’t admit that their solutions entail that much harm to present peoples. Tell people that they must harm themselves, their children and their grandchildren for future sweetness and light, you get the Yellow Vests. [N.B. Your masters are now telling you that the Yellow Vest movement is motivated by governmental austerity measures, not carbon taxes on necessities.]

January 5, 2019 7:34 pm

While in the underdeveloped world we have millions of people living in povety what Western politician will tell them that they cannot grow a cash crop which makes lots of money.

Anyway like the rest of us they would be working for a large concern and that is as good as it gets.
What does sustainability really mean, and too whom. It used to men that it was a steady thing, continuous growth, be it manufacturing or growing crops. Today it seems to have turned Green.

As for the wild life, well humans tend to remove them when it comes to their, the humans survival. Zoo’s are their only long term hope.


Reply to  Michael
January 5, 2019 8:32 pm

And the West won’t allow them to have air conditioning either.

The Greens truly hate human flourishing.

Tombstone Gabby
January 5, 2019 7:47 pm

Either way, we found that relying on consumers to consciously and regularly include certified products in their shopping has limitations.
Was the retail price of the various products a factor in their survey? I believe the expression “heat or eat” came to us from the United Kingdom.

Gary Pearse
January 5, 2019 7:53 pm

What on earth is a Dr. Anybody from Sir Isaac Newton’s Cambridge doing analization of palm oil ‘sustainability’. Two things:
1) Oil palms grow like bluddy weeds! Are they worried about their extinction?!#&@.
2) It was these same zealots that had the native forests chopped down and paid governing despots to yank all the people, orangutangs and other creatures out to make way for endless asinine plantations of palm oil to power EU diesel cars because THAT was the “sustainable” fad at the time. In Cameroon, it was the pygmies and countless animals (that these people hunted) that were dispossessed to grow this enormous crop.
3) When EU citizens started falling over with cancer and other terminal lung problems because of the particulates and poisons, etc, that fake diesel created, the comedians of this sitcom then shutdown diesel car production, stopped buying palm oil fuel leaving these poor non EU folk with thousands of km2 of useless plantations and and no work for the dispossessed!
4) And now they design a piddling certification stamp to stop the ripped off victims from selling some portion of the crop for margarine and salad oil. Somebody has to assist these people with a several trillion dollar class action suit against these evil ones.

And asteriked *Dr Ostfield? Dearie, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Reply to  Gary Pearse
January 6, 2019 8:04 am

Palm oil is not used for diesel cars in the EU. It has limited use in the countries which produce palm oil and which are short of fossil fuel.

Rich Davis
Reply to  griff
January 6, 2019 10:34 am

If griff asserts it, it must be true, right?

But note griff’s use of the present tense. This is how science and history deniers operate, by asserting half-truths that omit the damning facts and give a false impression. Notice that Gary’s actual allegation that EU governments incentivized African despots to convert rainforest to palm oil plantations is not addressed. We are left with a statement that was already claimed (that the EU no longer allows the use of palm oil as a diesel substitute), phrased as if it were a rebuttal, but without asserting any actual lies.

Very helpful addition to the discussion, griff! You may have successfully muddied the waters for some readers.

In a similarly honest account:

Jews are not killed by the government in Germany. There is some limited government killing of Jews indirectly by governments in the Middle East that make special payments to suicide bombers.

Tim F
Reply to  griff
January 6, 2019 3:49 pm

As always Griff is dead wrong. I lived in the EU from 2003 through 2015 and I can guarantee you during that time frame there was extensive use of palm oil in diesel fuels, that also matched when palm oil plantation creation across SE Asia took off. The destruction from this EU policy was insane. For a person who is supposed to care about the environment Griff is not only a hypocrite, but also an out and out liar.

January 5, 2019 9:25 pm

Said Roundtable not always so pure acting according to this which describes the big players & concerns about some practises –>>

Flight Level
January 6, 2019 12:23 am

Suddenly, palm oil was not anymore a problem on the old continent, NGO’s went silent and media moved to other do-good headlines.

However, most Europeans don’t know that now, there is palm oil in their diesel while business ramifications of NGO’s actually own the palm plantations and the label “Rainforest Alliance Certified Palm Oil”.

January 6, 2019 3:23 am

So, since the consumers won’t demand or preferentially buy ‘sustainable’ palm oil, governments should FORCE companies to use it so consumers don’t have a choice.

Sounds like socialism.

old construction worker
January 6, 2019 4:46 am

This article should be category as “government is the problem”.

Peta of Newark
Reply to  old construction worker
January 6, 2019 5:34 am

@ ocw:
Exactly – are not most of the new oil plantations growing oil to make diesel out of?
The insanity goes full circle with the ever expanding diesel debacle here in the UK.

I do love this bit:

“Only five percent recognised the RSPO label – the same as a fictional label we put into the survey as a control. Of that small number, only one percent said they actively include products with the label in their shopping.”

I will admit that statisticticstictic tictic tics are NOT my strongest suit BUT, doesn’t this imply the NOBODY recognised their new wotsit?

Equally, maybe folks realise/know that Fairturd is a method of exerting slavery/serfdom on the misguided peasants who’ve bought into fast talking Snake Oil patter…. while its salespeople jolly themselves around the world in Business Class doing ‘inspections’ – AND force the put-upon peasants to pick up the tab

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 6, 2019 7:20 am

“Only five percent recognised the RSPO label – the same as a fictional label we put into the survey as a control. Of that small number, only one percent said they actively include products with the label in their shopping.”

Or perhaps nobody gives a damn because it is more trouble than it is worth.

Dave Fair
Reply to  Peta of Newark
January 6, 2019 11:13 am

Just reading the statement, I take it that only 1% of 5% of people surveyed (verbally, at least) actually take that nonsense seriously.

Reply to  old construction worker
January 6, 2019 5:35 am

I have heard it said that the most terrifying words you can hear are – “I am from the Government, and we are here to help you”!
So, yes indeed, ocw, the Government often is the problem.
Particularly when it [they] consider that all the answers are in their hands!


George Daddis
January 6, 2019 6:16 am

Would someone in the UK near the DRAX plant check and see if the wood pellets we send you have a government label?

January 6, 2019 6:40 am

Or..we could go back to using transfats, for which there never was any evidence of harm, which can be produced from any vegetable oil grown anywhere, which are stable, which are less wasteful and more cost effective in every way, and for which the environmentally destructive palm oil is the substitute. Unscientific health concern led to government bans on transfats which lead to the ecological destruction of palm oil plantations and the highly pollutant processing facilities.

Bent Andersen
January 6, 2019 9:16 am

Sustainable choice on palm oil: piggy fat.

Try substitute it on your favorite recipe… (not joking here)

Bent Andersen
Reply to  Bent Andersen
January 6, 2019 9:21 am

aka Lard

January 7, 2019 9:51 am

Actually, I’m going to agree on this. The production of palm oil has been a bad thing, leading to clearcutting, defoliation, habitat destruction, and intention killing of local species, such as orangutans.

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