Traceability and zero deforestation for increasingly sustainable palm oil

At Marca, the Bologna fair dedicated to commercial brands, the Italian Sustainable Palm Oil Union, together with certification bodies and companies, took stock of the new regulations and the progress of the ‘Prism’ traceability system

According to the latest European legislation against deforestation and forest degradation (Eudr regulation), by the end of this year it will be necessary to guarantee that products do not come from areas deforested after 31 December 2020. At Marca, the Bologna fair dedicated to the commercial brand, the Italian Sustainable Palm Oil Union, together with certification bodies and companies, took stock of the new regulations and the progress of the ‘Prism’ traceability system, which will help the members of the Roundtable on sustainable palm oil (RSPO) to demonstrate compliance with the EUDR of supplies.

“Companies that want to differentiate themselves on the market will find the RSPO certification relevant and distinctive – explained Ruben Brunsveld, deputy director EMEA, Roundtable on sustainable palm oil who spoke remotely at the conference – In addition to environmental requirements, the RSPO certification includes social and economic obligations which go beyond the sustainability requirements of the EU regulation on deforestation. This year, RSPO will launch a new platform ‘Prism-Palm resource information sustainability management’ which will support RSPO members in providing the information necessary for the due diligence declaration required by the European Commission.”

The premise of the community regulation is to have a reduced environmental impact with regard to the raw materials that are imported into the territory of the European community. “The new European regulation that will come into force at the end of this year will make it possible to guarantee that all palm oil entering Europe will be certified sustainable and ‘deforestation free’ – commented Mauro Fontana, president of the Italian Union of Sustainable Palm Oil – RSPO certification can be a proactive way to be ready to comply with European regulations also because RSPO, as a certification, has a broader vision that also takes into account ethical, social and economic aspects”.

The traceability of supplies to the plantation is the most delicate problem for operators to solve as part of due diligence. In a highly fragmented supply chain, such as that of palm oil, but not only, where there are millions of small producers in plantations of even a few hectares scattered in remote areas and a lack of tools suited to the new needs of traceability and transparency, this regulation risks penalizing the weakest who could be excluded from the supply chains of user companies due to lack of adequate guarantees, with repercussions on the market and on a socio-economic level.

“The biggest challenge is somewhat linked to small producers, the so-called small holders – explains Marcello Valenti, Unigra environment and sustainability office manager – who perhaps do not have the same tools that larger producers may have and therefore in some areas this monitoring system must be fully operational; however, given the good starting level with regards to palm oil, for this traceability, thanks also to the help of the various entities operating in these fields such as RSPO for example, we should be able to overcome this challenge”.

Sustainable palm oil with RSPO certification represents a concrete example of integration between two worlds, that is, between the world of food and the world of non-food, because it is a raw material that is used for food and non-food products, such as cosmetics. “Today the demand for certification processes is growing in both sectors – observed Mariano Serratore, technical director of the Institute for Ethical and Environmental Certification (ICEA) – From what we see as a certification body there is an increase both in the food and in the non-food sector, also because of the companies that we are going to certify at this moment, around 35% are producers of raw materials that will be used to fuel both the food and non-food sectors. It is certainly an interesting fact and highlights even more the value of sustainable palm oil in supply chains. Clearly this is an important element because the certification itself has as a prerequisite the fact that all the actors in the supply chain are certified and therefore guarantees a further element of traceability, and therefore added value, for the certification systems”.