Palm Done Right: Retailers support initiative for responsibly sourced palm oil

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04 Sep 2018 --- Mission-based educational platform Palm Done Right (PDR) is enlisting industry and public support to help change the conversation about palm oil and ultimately, how it is produced. This September marks the first annual National Palm Done Right Month in the US, a campaign designed to build awareness about responsibly sourced palm oil, galvanize the natural products industry and gain retail, manufacturer and consumer support.

PDR is celebrating current partners supporting the Palm Done Right initiative and announce the addition of several new retail partners – online retailer, Thrive Market, Mustard Seed Market (OH), LifeSource Natural Foods (OR), Jackson Whole Grocer (WY), Natural Grocers (CO) and the business services cooperative for retail food co-ops, National Co+op Grocers (NCG).

Retailer support is a critical aspect of spreading the Palm Done Right message. Senior Vice President of Merchandising and Product Development, Jeremiah McElwee, has been a supporter of Palm Done Right from the start. 

“At Thrive Market, we believe that it is our responsibility to educate consumers and palm oil is an important topic. Both industry and consumers need to know that there is a positive and sustainable solution for producing palm oil, a versatile and ubiquitous ingredient. Ultimately, destructive conflict palm has no place in the natural products industry and it is through awareness and education that we will change the supply chain,” he explains.  

Palm Done Right is about how individual choices can make an impact in improving sustainable practices, preventing deforestation and finding solutions to reduce climate change. Natural Habitats, developer of the Palm Done Right platform, is dedicated to improving our food system through responsible ingredient sourcing and organic agriculture practices. PDR believes that organic farming is the solution to preserving and enhancing ecosystems, soil, and biodiversity and promoting healthy communities. 

Natural Habitats is leading positive change in the palm oil industry by proving that palm oil can be grown for good. This approach demonstrates that palm oil grown organically, with third-party certifications, can preserve the environment and native species, bring positive economic support to local communities and create sustainable livelihoods for everyone involved. Palm Done Right, a movement, aims to connect the benefits of organic, responsible palm oil, with brands, suppliers, manufacturers, media, and consumers, to change the conversation about palm oil and bring positive impact to scale.

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Neil Blomquist, Director for Natural Habitats USA

Speaking to FoodIngredientFirst, Neil Blomquist, Director for Natural Habitats USA, says: “Companies need to take responsibility to investigate where their ingredients come from, all the way to the farm. For palm, they need to understand the complexities of RSPO and make informed choices. Ultimately, the PDR model holds the most hope for a significant shift in the industry if more companies took the high road.”

“The conventional supply chains are moving too slowly toward solving problems and the more we can educate the consumer and the trade that oil palm farming can be done right, the more it will impact decision makers at every level,” he explains. “With the need to replace hydrogenated fat with a healthier alternative in products where a hard fat is essential, the more we need to educate consumers about the importance of palm oil to fill this void.” 

“We would ultimately like to evolve PDR to an NGO and broaden the stakeholder base, take it into the international community and act as a catalyst for significant change in regions of the world where there is the most need. We are now successfully engaging the retail community to become involved, an important step in raising their awareness to establish standards for what kind of palm oil is used in the products they offer.”

“I believe the initiative has longevity in the industry. It will take time to do so. So this grassroots level approach works. The demand for palm oil will only grow and this call to action will be needed for a long time into the future,” he notes. 

Retailers have control of the products they offer to their customers, and they have the most direct opportunity to influence their purchasing decisions, according to Blomquist, which is why he believes this is a positive place to start. 

Palm oil and the sourcing of palm oil is often widely discussed in the food industry. FoodIngredientsFirst has been regularly publishing updates on the most recent movements. Last month, more than 90 institutional investors representing more than US$6.7 trillion in assets had called on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to strengthen its standards for certifying the sustainable production of palm oil. You can read more on this here

And earlier this summer, a new report examining palm oil said its production is a disaster for tropical rainforests and trashing the habitats of orangutans and tigers – but alternatives like soy, corn and rapeseed could be even worse because these crops are much more land-hungry. You can read more on this here.

RSPO CEO, Datuk Darrel Webber warned against the unforeseen sustainability and biodiversity impacts that may come from switching to, what he calls, less sustainable edible oils than palm oil. You can read more on this here

By Elizabeth Green

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