Thursday June 16, 2011

RSPO trademark will work to oil palm growers’ advantage

A STARBIZ comment titled Endless grouses over Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) trademark (June 14) states: “Interestingly, while the RSPO is confident that the trademark would play a key role in stimulating better demand for certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) trademark, its own members, particularly oil palm producers and plantation owners in Indonesia, have contradicting views on its success.”

Such apprehension is expected, but that does not reflect the sentiment of the whole market. Within the RSPO, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, growers and the other stakeholder groups have been very engaged and instrumental in the realisation of the trademark.

As far as we are concerned, the trademark will work to the advantage of growers. It was introduced to meet two specific objectives. First, consumers globally can be assured that what they are buying contains CSPO. Second, they can identify and choose to buy products that use palm oil bought only from growers who produce in an environmentally and socially responsible way.

The article also states: “A local industry player also voiced similar views, saying the problem was never on supply but the demand factor ... ” Having a trademark “on packet” means that consumers can “pull” sustainable palm oil through the supply chain. This is extremely important because it directly addresses the problem that manufacturers are not taking up the volumes of CSPO produced by growers that have committed to RSPO.

Consumers' buying decisions affect what ingredients manufacturers use and what retailers put on their shelves. Growers have invested heavily to obtain RSPO certification for many years. These investments are now (literally) bearing fruit. The RSPO trademark guarantees consumers on the environmental and social value that growers have worked to put into CSPO. Without the trademark, these efforts and commitments by growers who respect the planet and work with communities would remain invisible.

Many international consumer goods manufacturers and national economies have pledged to support CSPO. They have promised that between now and 2015, they will shift to sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil. Within the RSPO, the trademark was developed by consumer goods manufacturers, retailers and growers working together for several months. This is a critical milestone and we believe that as consumers actively seek out the trademark on products, manufacturers will be compelled to bring forward their targets for using only sustainable palm oil in all their products.

As with anything new, there will be questions from the market and the industry. These are necessary to ensure the trademark and its use remains relevant and impactful. The trademark will evolve as stakeholders give feedback and the market reacts. We fully expect that the trademark will push up consumer demand for CSPO, and that this will translate into better premiums for growers who supply CSPO.

Growers who are producing CSPO believe in the longer term. Their standards and practices for sustainability are now business as usual; there is no turning back. The trademark is a recognition of the commitment growers have already made and now invites consumers to join them in choosing sustainability.

Puvan Selvanathan,

Malaysian Palm Oil Association

representative on the board of RSPO

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