The purchase of the certificates is part of the GreenPalm scheme that attempts to reward the sustainable production of palm oil by giving sustainable producers the right to sell certificates to manufacturers for a premium price.
Although the oil they receive is not necessarily sustainably certified, in buying certificates equivalent to a certain volume of palm oil a manufacturer is promoting the sustainable production of the crop.
Unilever claims that its involvement in the RSPO-endorsed scheme helps the company move towards its target of buying all its palm oil from certified sources by 2015. As the segregated supply chain - the ability to keep sustainable palm oil separate from non-sustainable from plantation through to finished products - is still relatively undeveloped, Unilever argues that the GreenPalm scheme is a viable alternative in the meantime.
“Until sustainable segregated supply chains become available, GreenPalm certificates are the best option to encourage growers to comply with the requirements of the RSPO and certify their plantations as sustainable,” Unilever’s senior vice president of global communications and sustainability Gavin Neath said.
Segregated supply chain developing
Although the sustainable segregated supply chain is very much in its infancy, progress is being made.
Last week saw announcements from IOI-Loders Croklaan and New Britain Palm Oil about their new refineries opening in Europe that will be dedicated to the sustainable oil.
IOI-Loders Croklaan will open its new dedicated refinery in Rotterdam in June, treating oil originating from plantations it owns in Malaysia.
While the segregated oil will initially be an add-on product, making up around 10 per cent of IOI-Loders Croklaan’s total palm oil offering, the company is hoping to have certification for all its plantations by the end 2011, which will allow it to completely change over.
UK firm New Britain also declared that its new Liverpool refinery will be up and running from April, handling only segregated oil from its Papua New Guinea plantations.
In addition, Spain-headquartered company Lipidos Santiga (Lipsa) received the first cargo of segregated sustainable palm oil from Papua New Guinea earlier this year, followed by a cargo of sustainable palm stearine.