18/01/2008 (Mongabay.com) - Global food and consumer goods giants are backing a plan to certify that palm oil is produced in a way that doesn't drive destruction of tropical rainforests, reports The Wall Street Journal. The move comes as the palm industry is facing increasing scrutiny -and consumer backlash - for its practices which scientists say are driving large-scale destruction of forests across Indonesia and Malaysia, resulting in massive greenhouse gas emissions.
To improve palm oil's tarnished image as well a counter claims of "greenwashing" from past failed initiatives, the Malaysia-based Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry consortium of producers and buyers which accounts for about 40 percent of the annual global trade in palm oil, says it will soon introduce a system to certify palm-oil operations that meet strict environmental criteria, according to the The Wall Street Journal's Tom Wright. Compliance will be periodically verified by outside auditors. Plantations established on forested areas destroyed after November 2005 will not qualify for certification.
Nevertheless environmentalists have expressed skepticism, noting that buyers have little knowledge of where palm oil is sourced. A November report from Greenpeace revealed continued forest destruction by RSPO members, while an investigation from Friends of the Earth Netherlands caused Singapore-based Wilmar International to end new plantation development at three of its Indonesian units.