Why The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (And the WWF?) is Full of Shit

Boycott palm oil — even if companies claim to be members of the RSPO. Because RSPO certification doesn’t mean shit. Now we have proof.

What's at Stake in Borneo

What’s at Stake in Borneo (Photo credit: Rainforest Action Network)

We have always been very skeptical of the RSPO. Not only has it done very little to stop the rampant destruction of rainforests for palm oil plantations over the years, but it is little more than a greenwashing vehicle for PR-minded corporations looking for “green” credentials to sell their environment-destroying products.

Well, if we didn’t need any more proof that the RSPO is full of shit, there’s this: at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, the RSPO voted to actually call rainforest destruction “sustainable”.

…[A]t its Extraordinary General Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the RSPO formally rejected longstanding calls from member companies, scientists and nonprofit organizations to stop certifying as “sustainable” palm oil produced through deforestation and other environmentally damaging practices like destruction of ultra carbon-rich peatland and use of highly poisonous chemicals like the notorious paraquat, which is linked to kidney failure, respiratory failure, skin cancer, and Parkinson’s disease.

This absurd RSPO action led the World Wildlife Federation — co-founder of the RSPO! — to issue this statement BEFORE the vote:

Because the review failed to accept strong, tough and clear performance standards within the P&Cs [RSPO Principles & Criteria] on issues like GHGs and pesticides, it is, unfortunately, no longer possible for producers or users of palm oil to ensure that they are acting responsibly simply by producing or using Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Therefore WWF is now asking progressive companies to set and report on particular performance standards within the framework set by the new RSPO P&Cs.

Responsible growers are those that… — for new oil palm developments: full implementation of the RSPO New Plantings Procedure and zero‐net land use emissions over a single rotation, which will exclude cultivation on peatsoils and clearance of high carbon stock areas;

— for existing plantations and mills: significant annual GHG emissions reduction targets

— an end to the use of pesticides that are categorized as World Health Organization Class 1A or 1B, or that are listed by the Stockholm or Rotterdam Conventions, and paraquat…;”

Nevertheless, the WWF buckled. It accepted this new BS rainforest-destroying “sustainable” criteria, voting for the new principles and encouraging other members of the RSPO do so as well. Here’s their statement:

do represent
standard. Therefore 
Assembly meeting. 


Man, do I hate that word — compromise. The right wing crazies in the US don’t do it. And neither should environmentalists.

How’s this for never trusting the RSPO again, the WWF — or any corporation that pretends to use RSPO membership as demonstrating their environmental commitments.


The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004 with a view to introducing and implementing global standards for the production of sustainable palm oil – with the engagement of all stakeholders. ‘Certified sustainable palm oil’ is now available – complete with logo – but the sustainability criteria are far too weak, and it is coming from producers whose operations may only include a small percentage that are considered sustainable, while the rest are contributing to deforestation. Products bearing the RSPO’s logo will most likely contain palm oil from various different sources, including plantations that have displaced important rainforest.
The certification scheme is flawed and misleading. Until it is far more rigorous or an alternative is developed, consumers can only be sure they are not part of the problem if what they are buying does not contain any palm oil at all.


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5 Responses to Why The Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil (And the WWF?) is Full of Shit

  1. Pingback: Avoid Products That Contain Unsustainable Palm Oil | gettingonmysoapbox

  2. Pingback: Cheez-Its — Yeah, They Contain Palm Oil: Kellogg’s Response | gettingonmysoapbox

  3. Champanzee says:

    If you go to the WWF website, they state boycotting is not the answer. It seems to me they are encouraging palm oil consumption, so long as the consumer voice their concerns to the company. But why would a company change unless loss of business was threatened?
    What are your thoughts on the WWF’s statements regarding boycotts?

    • The WWF is a founding RSPO member and has had to make several inconvenient compromises with other members who directly profit off the palm oil

    • trade. So it’s on their compromised best interest to urge against boycotts and present arguments that other oils will require more land, etc. But I agree with you; how will an industry change unless we use our purchasing power? That’s why I boycott. And will continue to inform companies why.

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