Sustainable palm oil for major Chinese producers




China-based users of palm oil have announced intentions to provide more support for sustainable palm oil.

Credit: WWF-Canon/Hartmut JUNGIUS

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Major China-based producers and users of palm oil have announced intentions to support more sustainable palm oil - an important boost for efforts to halt tropical deforestation.

The public statement, made at the 2nd International Oil and Fats Summit in Beijing earlier this month, committed the companies to "support the promotion, procurement and use of sustainable palm oil in China," as well as "support the production of sustainable palm oil through any investments in producing countries."

China is currently the world's largest importer of palm oil, accounting for one third of all global trade.

Increasing demand for palm oil, which is used in everything from soap and toothpaste to chocolate bars and ice cream, is causing considerable damage to fragile rainforest environments, threatening endangered species like tigers and orangutans, and contributing to global climate change.

Palm oil producers and buyers making the statement included Wilmar International, IOI Corperation, KLK Berhad, Kulim Malaysia Berhad, Asia Agri., Premier Foods PLC and Unilever PLC.

"Given the massive of volumes of palm oil now being purchased, any move China makes towards using sustainable palm oil will have a big influence on protecting tropical forest resources in South East Asia and other areas," said WWF-China Country Representative Dermot O'Gorman.

The international Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004, with the aim of establishing global standards for sustainable palm oil production, and promoting the use of products containing sustainable palm oil. WWF-China introduced Chinese companies to sustainable palm oil that same year.

It also recieved a massive boost in November 2008, when Huo Jiangguo, President of China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs and Native Produce, attended the RSPO annual conference in Indonesia and announced that China supported the drive for more sustainable palm oil products.

"Industry in China acknowledges that sustainability is one of the key criteria of ensuring competence in the global market," said Bian Zhenghu, vice president of the China Chamber of Commerce, during his opening address to the forum.

"The roundtable encourages the entire industry chain to make a move towards sustainability, and also gives Chinese stakeholders a big opportunity to play a significant role achieving the aims of RSPO," he said.