Background

Why come to this event?

The production and consumption of sustainable palm oil is the subject of a debate which is gaining more and more traction in Europe and globally - in political, NGO and business circles and increasingly also at consumer level. Considering the intensity of this debate, which spans from environmental to social concerns, RSPO is organising a European Summit to engage with European stakeholders across the palm oil industry on the question of palm oil sustainability. By attending this event, participants will have opportunity to better understand the issues at stake and the key trends, opportunities and challenges concerning the future of sustainable palm oil in Europe and globally.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been working to promote sustainable palm oil as a solution to environmental and social issues, and is calling European industries and consumers to take a firm lead on the transition towards a more sustainable production and consumption path, by opting for certified sustainable palm oil.

Where does Europe stand on sustainable palm oil?

While Europe is the largest consumer of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), the current worldwide uptake for CSPO stands at 52%. The gap between the supply and demand of CSPO is due to a number of challenges, such as the logistical complexity of the palm oil supply chain, the lack of awareness about how and where industry can find CSPO and its derivatives in individual markets, and the low consumer awareness of CSPO in some markets.

European industry players have an important role to play in increasing the uptake of CSPO in Europe, paving the way for the transformation of the palm oil sector, and for other consumer markets around the world to emulate. Many European business organizations and institutions are responding positively to RSPO's call to action: the number of RSPO members in Europe has been rapidly growing. In the Netherlands, thanks to the leadership of the Dutch Task Force Sustainable Palm Oil, 41% of the palm oil used is RSPO certified. Thanks to the work of a group of leading companies and industry organisations, Europe is home to a number of other national voluntary commitments in support of certified sustainable palm oil.

However, much remains to be done to motivate more players to embrace tangible commitments and measures towards CSPO. This is also in line with a resolution proposed by the growers' sectors at the 9th General Assembly of the RSPO Members in Singapore, which called for the Executive Board of the RSPO to review and ensure dedicated plans and activities to stimulate the uptake of CSPO.

Part of this critical milestone is the upcoming deadline for the full implementation of the new rules introduced by the EU Regulation on the Food Information to Consumers (FIC), on 13 December 2014, whereby all vegetable oils and fats will need to be labelled on the packaging of food products, including palm oil. This creates an opportunity to raise consumers' awareness on the role of palm oil in the EU food sector, highlight the importance of replacing conventional palm oil with certified sustainable palm oil and trigger sustainability concerns as part of any responsible consumption habit. The RSPO Trademark should be positioned as a strategic response to this development.

The volume has also been relatively high on debates concerning the viability and credibility of sustainability schemes across European countries - another opportunity to play a part in reaching out, informing and educating stakeholders about RSPO and its commitment.

Organising a summit in Europe beginning with Berlin (a compacted version of the annual roundtable meetings held by the RSPO in South East Asia) will therefore be a good opportunity to discuss the various dimensions impacting the sector by engaging with RSPO's large European membership base, potential members, key local stakeholders and thought leaders in Europe.

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