Roundtable On Sustainable Palm Oil: Snake Oil!

Ever get the feeling you’ve been had? It’s an iconic quote from a punk legend, but as with all great sayings, it can be applied in many different places. This is one example: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an industry talking shop if ever there was one and, like the ineffectual light-green environmental groups who “fight” for changes to government policy and send out gleeful press releases whenever a corporation promises to behave itself, the RSPO are actually making things far worse than if the public were left to their own devices. Sustainable palm oil is simply snake oil in a clever diguise: it doesn’t exist and it never will do.

Here’s how it works.

1) As a group of big businesses whose primary interest is to ensure the expansion of the lucrative palm oil industry – retailers, traders, processors, growers, investors; that sort of thing — set up a shell organisation that claims it is going to make the industry “sustainable”.

2) Call in some gullible (yes, I said “gullible”) NGOs and environmentalists and say that they can have a seat on this august, influential body if they allow business to continue as before — but they will be allowed to suggest changes to the industry providing it doesn’t affect the business model.

3) Repeatedly announce to the world, through member companies such as Sainsburys and Unilever, that agreements are being reached and work is moving on swiftly to make plantations sustainable, but that we have to give them time because this is a tough job, and there are so many products that contain this oil it is just “impossible” to do this any other way.

4) Do almost nothing for years while counting the massive profit that has been made from cheap oil being grown on recently deforested land using cheap labour.

5) After a few years say that the there are so many plantations that no more deforestation has to take place. Meanwhile the South East Asian rainforest has ceased to exist, carbon levels through wood and peat burning have boosted the greenhouse effect, and people have still not realised they have been well and truly greenwashed.

[Read the rest at The Unsuitablog]