Voices

Commitment to ‘haze-free’ palm oil should go beyond advocacy

From

Kwan Jin Yao

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Published: 4:02 AM, July 22, 2016

I refer to the report “Corporate alliance aims to deliver ‘haze-free’ products” (June 28).

One might be encouraged by the Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil’s mission: To raise awareness of the link between haze and unsustainable palm oil, and to share information on sustainable sourcing.

But the commitment to certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) should go beyond advocacy, with more concrete indicators and targets to show, respectively, how existing alliance members have made progress and how prospective members should make the switch.

To broaden the reach of the proposed advocacy, strategies could be designed and shared among firms to also educate Singaporean consumers.

Alliance members that were cited in the report — large local corporates and multinationals — have already made operational changes and have switched, or will switch, to CSPO by the end of this decade.

But it is less clear whether small and medium enterprises (SMEs) see the long-term value of such a switch or whether they can necessarily take advantage of the economies of scale their bigger counterparts enjoy.

The fact that Ikea has helped to absorb half of the cost as its suppliers move to CSPO highlights the importance of financial incentives, beyond the encouragement promised by alliance members.

Running parallel with the outreach to corporate entities could be endeavours to disseminate more public information related to CSPO, perhaps crafted with civil society or non-profit organisations.

Consumers here, unless affected directly by transboundary haze, may not be cognisant of sustainable palm oil and how the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil addresses the environmental impact of palm oil cultivation.

In the long term, greater awareness could encourage SMEs to respond too. Such pressures, in a more idealistic future, could spur more political and geopolitical action to complement these developments on the ground.