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Global alliance puts sustainable coconut oil on the map

By Simon Pitman , 07-Feb-2013
Last updated on 07-Feb-2013 at 12:35 GMT

A global alliance has been formed amongst coconut oil suppliers including BASF and Cargill, and farmers in the Philippines to ensure that the ingredient is sustainably sourced in the future.

Coconut oil, which is an increasingly popular ingredient for natural hair care and skin care formulations as well as soaps, is also in big demand for the food industry, which is putting pressure on coconut farmers to increase production, which often leads to sustainability issues being overlooked.

Authorities in General Santos City, Philippines, have combined with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, BASF and Cargill to for the partnership, which is co-financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

A certified sustainable supply of coconut oil

The programe aims to establish a certified supply of sustainable coconut oil that focuses on smallholder coconut farmers in the Southern island of Mindanao, an area that is renowned for the crop.

The aim of the programme is to raise farmer’s incomes by improving productivity and coconut oil quality, while also introducing Sustainable Agricultural Network (SAN) standards as a basis for Rainforest Alliance Certification for the production of the coconut oil sourced from this area.

According to the alliance members, farmers have already started the first phase of the Good Agricultural Practices training, while also being supplied with equipment aimed at improving the quality of the coconut oil.

Social welfare support

The programme also provides financial support that allows 2,500 coconut farmers and their families to enroll in the state healthcare insurance scheme.

Currently it is estimated that there are an estimated 28 million Filipinos who make their living from coconut farming, contributing to an export industry estimated at generating approximated $2bn in annual revenues.

“Contributing to the sustainability requirements of our supply chain by helping to set criteria and introduce a certification scheme for our home and personal care business is a core part of our corporate social responsibility efforts,” said Harald Sauthoff, BASF vice president global procurement Natural Oils and Oleochemicals.

Following on from initiatives for sustainable palm oil

The programme follows in the footstep of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which was established in 2004 due to concerns over the environmental effects of the crop.

In 2010 Unilever CEO Paul Polman committed the company to the drive towards the development of sustainable palm oil, as part of his involvement in the organisation as a founding member.

Palm oil, palm kernel oil and their derivatives are present in about 70 per cent of cosmetic and personal care products and with global demand fuelling unsustainable growth of the palm industry over the past decade, the RSPO hopes this new phase will transform the market.

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