Ostrum AM takes a stand against the devastation caused by palm oil

The palm oil industry is a source of major environmental risks, so as early as 2015, Ostrum AM co-signed a letter urging the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to implement so-called “No Deforestation, No peat, No Exploitation” standards.


Palm oil is the most widely produced vegetable oil in volume terms and is used in almost 50% of processed products. The industry’s swift expansion – now worth $37bn worldwide – has led to the destruction of tropical rainforests, the drainage of high-carbon peatlands and conflicts over land with local communities. Oil palm plantation is one of the main causes of deforestation, which generates 10% of world greenhouse gas emissions, and deforestation in 2017 was the worst ever recorded.

The palm oil industry could avoid these pitfalls and continue to be a leading source of reasonably-priced vegetable oil if it were managed in a more responsible way. However, this requires the definition and application of solid, credible and relevant standards, as outlined in our pledge with the RSPO in 2015.

The RSPO is a non-profit organization made up of stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry1 with the aim of developing and applying international standards for sustainable palm oil production. With this in mind, the RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.

Progress has been made since 2005, but recent controversy on certain RSPO-certified production facilities has cast doubt over the body’s ability to enforce its own standards. Companies in the palm oil industry must apply more stringent standards right across the value chain in order to safeguard the sector’s sustainability. The RSPO has both the infrastructure and the increased market share required to make this goal a reality, but if it fails to take on board leading corporate policy commitment and best practices (NDPE)2 seen elsewhere in the sector, then the organization’s relevance and effectiveness could be significantly impaired.

Ostrum AM therefore took advantage of RSPO’s principles and criteria review to co-sign3 a new call to action this summer, urging the organization to bolster a certain number of criteria i.e. protecting land – and particularly high carbon stock forests and land (HCS) –, mandating traceability and mapping, and protecting human rights and labor concerns. The letter also calls for more robust accountability systems that support certification, including the enforcement of consistent sanctions when companies are non-compliant with RSPO principles and criteria and its code of conduct.

This commitment is coordinated by the CERES.

1 Oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organizations (NGOs),
2 NDPE policy: No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation is an initiative to combat uncontrolled deforestation, planting on dry peatlands, and exploiting local people and communities,
3 Signatories manage assets of $6.7 trillion.