Palm oil is used in a wide range of food and personal care products, but there are serious concerns about the effect of the industry on the environment, as intensive plantations have cleared habitats for endangered species like tigers and orangutans in South Asia, while also adding to carbon emissions.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was set up in 2004 to promote sustainable palm oil use – and changing to palm oil that is sustainable or supports has become a major trend for food manufacturers and retailers.
Paul Conway, senior vice president at Cargill said: “We are committed to helping lead efforts to move the palm oil industry towards more sustainable palm oil production. …WWF's extensive experience will help us assess progress amongst our suppliers and will enable us to work with each supplier to implement the standards set out by the RSPO."
Environmental groups including WWF, Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) have also been instrumental in shining a spotlight on the issue, by calling for more sustainable supply and naming companies that use less sustainably produced palm oil.
Cargill said the WWF assessment will help gauge its suppliers’ progress toward implementing the RSPO criteria.
Assessment is due to begin in August this year, with WWF to supervise the process and selection of environmental experts, and Cargill said it will release findings from the first stage of the assessment due at the beginning of 2011.
Jason Clay senior vice president of markets at WWF said: "This project is very important to WWF because it will help move the palm oil industry to higher levels of performance. Through engagement with businesses like Cargill, we can drive market transformation by creating linkages between performance and markets. This agreement allows us to affect positive change on the ground, so together we can create a process to drive continuous improvement of responsible sourcing practices."
Cargill said it aims to buy 60 percent of its total crude palm oil from RSPO members by the end of 2010.
One of the company’s oil palm plantations, PT. Hindoli in Sumatra, Indonesia is already RSPO certified, Cargill said, adding that it is “working towards getting RSPO certification for its other palm plantation”, Harapan Sawit Lestari.