Palm oil is the world’s most consumed vegetable oil. It is used as an edible oil, and in processed foods like chocolate bars, ice cream, instant noodles, and margarine. Cosmetics, soaps, shampoos and detergents also use palm oil derivatives. Oil palms yield more oil per hectare of land than any other oilseed in the world. Palm oil production also provides employment in rural areas, as currently over one million workers, three million smallholders, and many more households are involved in palm oil production across the world.
India is the world’s largest palm oil importer and imported 8.4 million metric tonnes (MMT) of palm oil in 2020-21, constituting around 18 % of global imports. India majorly imports from Indonesia (61 percent) and Malaysia (32 percent), which are also the two of the most biodiverse regions in the world.
As the global demand for palm oil increases, producer countries have to clear substantial tracts of tropical forests to make room for the palm oil plantations. Oil palm expansion to meet this demand can lead to numerous environmental, as well as social impacts. Clearing large expanses of forests causes forest fragmentation, and endangers habitats of species, which are already on the brink of extinction. Loss of natural forests also means loss of ecosystem services, such as clean water and soil erosion control.
To address this, WWF-India works with companies across the palm supply chain to raise awareness of the environmental and social problems associated with unsustainable palm oil production and promotes the uptake of sustainable palm oil in the country. WWF-India recognises that RSPO is currently the only credible, independent and multi-stakeholder certification scheme with the capacity to continue the supply of certified, sustainable palm oil to the global market and promotes a step-wise approach for companies in order to move towards sustainable procurement of palm oil in India. WWF-India adopts a multi-pronged approach and encourages concerted action amongst stakeholders including corporates, government, consumers, civil society organisations and NGOs, in order to transition the Indian palm oil industry to a sustainable one.
Sustainable Palm Oil Coalition for India (I-SPOC)
WWF-India, Centre for Responsible Business (CRB), Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) launched the Sustainable Palm Oil Coalition for India (I-SPOC) in September 2018 to facilitate industry collaboration across the value chain to promote the increased uptake of sustainable palm oil. The forum works towards addressing barriers and challenges to sustainable palm oil by taking into consideration the unique characteristics of the palm oil sector in India, focusing on aspects including policy, trade linkages and consumer sensitisation to sustainability. I-SPOC currently has more than 30 members from diverse sectors of the industry, including producers, refiners, consumer goods manufacturers, investors, and civil society organisations.