Responsible Palm Oil Production: Problems and Solutions

Responsible Palm Oil Production: What Wholesalers Should Understand

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet. Consequently, large volumes of it must be produced to meet consumer demand. As with most agricultural practices, there are various ways to grow palm oil trees, harvest their fruit, and extract the oil. Not all of those methods are aligned with responsible and ethical behavior.

Unfortunately, the palm oil industry has developed a bad reputation among wholesalers and the general public for doing things irresponsibly. And, sadly, that reputation is well-deserved for many producers. Their processes result in significant environmental damage.

What specifically are the environmental problems plaguing the palm oil industry and how can they be addressed? We provide more information below.

Traditional Palm Oil Producers and the Environmental Damage They Create

Palm oil producers who value revenue over sustainability have, to a large degree, defined the industry. Their “slash and burn” tactics create indelible images in the minds of consumers, as healthy, bio-diverse forests are decimated. And the resulting deforestation is more than just an immediate problem. Its long-term impact will continue for decades—if not centuries—to come.

Disreputable palm oil producers also cultivate peatlands, which are wetlands that serve as natural “carbon sinks.” Their destruction releases a massive amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, accelerating global warming and all the problems that come with it.

Responsible Palm Oil: A Thoroughly Achievable Goal

Adding to the tragedy of the environmental damage caused by standard palm oil production practices is the fact that it can be avoided. In locations suitable for African oil palm trees there is almost always available land that has been previously cleared for some other purpose. It may take a little added time, effort and capital to find and obtain it, but the resulting decrease in deforestation is worth it—as companies like Daabon can attest. The same is true for peatlands. Palm oil producers need to understand how vital they are to the environment and leave them in their natural state.

There are other practices that responsible palm oil producers can implement to protect the environment. For example, farming without using toxic chemicals and pesticides minimizes a palm oil production operation’s impact on the land. In addition, unneeded plant matter from the milling of palm fruit can be used as animal feed or fertilizer that goes back into the soil.

What’s more, wastewater from production processes can and should be captured and treated rather than released into the environment. At Daabon, for example, wastewater is turned into biofuel that not only powers our facilities but also puts excess energy into the grid.

Finally, responsible palm oil producers must understand all the creatures that inhabit the areas where they farm—from the tiniest microorganisms in the soil to animals that forage for food and make their homes in the region. Sustainable practices can avoid harming these creatures and losing the benefits of their contribution to the environment.

This is particularly important in areas that are home to rare or endangered species. For instance, Daabon makes it a priority to understand the needs of the armadillos, poison-arrow frogs, grey-handed night monkeys, several species of birds, and numerous species of plants found on its properties.

The Benefits of Working With Responsible Palm Oil Producers

Wholesalers and other companies that rely on palm oil get multiple benefits from establishing relationships with those producers that run their operations sustainably. For one thing, they can avoid the understandable backlash that “traditional” palm oil users are getting from consumers. Companies that can say truthfully that they only use palm oil from sustainable sources enjoy a competitive advantage over those that cannot.

In addition, wholesalers and companies that use products coming from responsible palm oil producers are well-positioned to provide a high level of transparency and traceability to their stakeholders with nothing to hide; something that is becoming more and more important in the food industry.

Making Sustainable Palm Oil a Priority

Sustainable palm oil can be produced in sufficient quantities to meet demand. It just takes commitment and a concerted effort from all stakeholders to do things responsibly.