What is RSPO?

Dec 9, 2016



Palm oil is in everything. We mean, everything. When you venture down the aisles of your local supermarket roughly half of the products in there contains the stuff. So, even if you think you don’t use it, you probably do.

In the last few years, it has faced serious scrutiny in the media and among conscious consumers worldwide but that begs the question: what makes palm oil so bad, and what can we do about it?

Unsustainable palm oil is a serious contributor to deforestation around the world, most notably in Indonesia and Brazil. The reason it has such a catastrophic impact on the environment is due to the ‘slash and burn’ technique employed by many farmers. 

This method means that large scale areas of protected rainforests are used for palm plantations; the crops are cut, harvested, and then whatever’s left is burned. This ensures a high turnover for farmers but obviously setting large areas of land that border protected rainforests is not the most controlled way to go about things, meaning that lots of little critters die in the process and global gas emissions go up. 

Although this seems dire there is a way around it and here’s where RSPO comes in.

RSPO stands for Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and they’re a savvy system in which farmers and smallholders undergo training in sustainable practices. This includes teaching producers about capitalising on their yield, producing more oil over a smaller area and thus gaining more profit. It’s a win-win, right? 

By now, however, you’re probably wondering ‘why palm oil, can’t we just use sunflower, coconut or vegetable oils?’. Well, the thing that makes palm oil so special is that it has the highest yield of any oil producing plant so when managed correctly it actually decreases deforestation. This extremely diverse oil and can be used across the board; from ice cream to soap to lipsticks and even biofuels. Additionally, it is great for the economy, an estimated 4.5 million people in Indonesia alone gain an income from farming palm oil, often bringing families out of poverty and ensuring that their children are fed and educated. Pretty cool, huh?

Consequently, they receive a shiny certificate for their ethical and forward thinking methods and can rest easy knowing no tigers have died at their hands. So, for all you wildlife lovers out there, RSPO is doing great things for the biodiversity for places like Indonesia, and as Attenborough-educated people we all know how important biodiversity is. 

Finally, what can you do about it? You might not live in or near a palm oil producing country so the matter might seem a little far reaching. However, the buck stops at you, bud. All you have to do is check that products use RSPO and not the naughty kind. This is easy to do because RSPO products have a stamp on them (or include it in their nutritional areas, like we do) which guarantees the ethical use of palm oils. 

If we continue to purchase non-sustainable versions of palm oil then the farmers who have worked so hard to produce environmentally conscious variants of the oil either go out of business or have to resort to unethical means of producing the oil to feed themselves and their families. Life is just sweeter when we help each other out.

So, grab yourself a Justine’s cookie, and rest assured knowing you’re helping millions by choosing an ethical and guilt-free product.

After reading this blog you can gloat at your friends a little too. Spread the word and educate them on sustainable oil production, knowing in your heart that you’ve got the tick from Attenborough, and what a gentle and delightful-sounding tick that is.