<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/leon#">The Business of Green</a>

The Business of Green

Money matters in the green world, by Leon Gettler.

Woolworths' palm oil action plan

Palm oil

Credit: iStockphoto

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Few businesses can have as great a public impact as retailers. Everyone has to do the shopping - most of us are at the supermarket or market at least once a week. No other sector has as much as contact with the public.

So when Australia’s biggest retailer Woolworths announces, as reported here, a green action plan that includes palm oil sourcing and labelling for its private label food products like Home Brand and Select, it’s important news and it’s likely to have an impact.

The Woolworths plan is to move to RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 for all private label products and to ensure labelling of palm oil and derivatives in all such products.

Woolworths Director of Supermarkets, Greg Foran, is urging other retailers to get behind Woolworths and commit themselves to offering sustainable palm oil products.

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil from the African oil palm tree, the second-most widely produced edible oil behind soybean, but it flourishes wherever there is lots of heat and rainfall. It’s not surprising then that most palm oil is grown and produced in places like Malaysia and Sumatra. It’s used in everything from foods to cosmetic and bath products.

Palm oil is also one of the big environmental issues. As WWF Australia says, up to 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to produce palm oil in Malaysia and Indonesia, where rainforests are being destroyed to convert land from forest to oil palm plantations.

Indonesia and Malaysia account for about 87 per cent of the global palm oil output and there are approximately 300-700 million hectares of abandoned land globally that can potentially be used for oil palm plantations and 20 million hectares in Indonesia alone. And global demand for palm oil is expected to increase amidst expectations of a global economic recovery.

Experts say deforestation is one of the big contributors to climate change. That means the uncontrolled use of palm oil is destroying the planet.

The destruction of rainforests for palm oil is also killing orangutans, with vast swathes of their habitat being cleared to produce it. According to this estimate, over one million kilograms of palm oil is imported into Australia every year.

Environmentalists want corporations to move to sustainable palm oil or produced by plantations that are well-managed with good environmental, social and economic standards.

Are you expecting other retailers to follow Woolworths? What else can corporations do?

Read more about the problems of palm oil HERE.