Why we must all turn to sustainable palm oil
Mauro Fontana, the new President of the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil, outlines his three-year plan to promote the use of certified sustainable palm oil in Italy.
At the beginning of this year, I was delighted to accept the position as President of the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil. The Union was founded in 2015 by leading trade associations belonging to Confindustria and national and multinational companies active in product sectors that use palm oil. It is dedicated to promoting the use of sustainable palm oil by companies and aims to communicate activities designed to raise awareness among stakeholders.
We also organise events, conferences and campaigns, and promote and support scientific research and studies into sustainable palm oil. Furthermore, we encourage collaborations between players in the sustainable palm oil supply chain, with the support of a qualified Scientific and Technical Committee.
My efforts will be aimed at strengthening the association’s role as a privileged point of contact with key institutions and as an authoritative and accredited source of accurate information on a supply chain that, in recent years, has made substantial strides in terms of sustainability. If managed responsibly, I believe this progress can contribute significantly towards achieving the objectives of sustainable development and helping to combat climate change.
In the coming years, we will be looking to bring together institutions, the consumer goods industry, retail companies and the public in an effort to create more transparent and traceable supply chains. We also intend to protect and give voice to all of the virtuous entities that share our objectives and those of the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations and the Paris Climate Accords.
In collaboration with environmental and social non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other institutions, we will undertake initiatives to raise awareness and encourage a market transition towards full environmental, social and economic sustainability.
I also believe that it is paramount to extend awareness of the importance of sustainable palm oil and its positive qualities at all levels. Not everyone knows, for example, that sustainable palm oil’s greenhouse gas emissions are 2.5 to six times lower than those of alternative vegetable oils (conventional palm oil, soya, rapeseed and sunflower). Moreover, the majority of studies confirm that the adoption of sustainable production standards not only safeguards our ecosystems, but also plays a crucial role in boosting the economy and livelihoods of local communities in the developing countries in which it’s produced.
Today in Italy in the food market alone, at least 95 percent of imported palm oil is certified sustainable, in accordance with international certification standards, such as those promoted by RSPO (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). Italy is, therefore, a frontrunner in the supply of sustainable palm oil in Europe and we are confident that this virtuous path, dedicated to the promotion of consumer awareness and compliance with sustainable development objectives, will not be interrupted.
The current tension in the vegetable oil market, exacerbated by the repercussions of the war in Ukraine, the world’s largest sunflower-growing country, will oblige companies that have recently chosen to abandon the use of palm oil to source alternative oils in order to cope with the inevitable reduction in market supply and the depletion of available stocks.
Should companies decide to return to the use of palm oil or choose it as a new alternative – a likely scenario – we sincerely hope that the remarkable results already achieved through the efforts of the Union will not be thwarted.
I hope that new supplies of palm oil will consist exclusively of the certified sustainable version, which has proven, to date, to be the best and only alternative to conventional palm oil, in terms of both environmental and social sustainability.
This conviction is supported by leading NGOs and authoritative experts from the scientific and academic community, and it will form a central message in the future activity of the Italian Union for Sustainable Palm Oil.