Since the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Trademark was launched in 2011, it has grown exponentially from 12 countries to 60 countries, and now appears on more than 400 consumer products. The trademark is now more sought after by the Supply Chain Associates and Ordinary Consumer Goods Manufacturers and has seen rapid growth in the last six months, with almost 140 new trademark applications received from RSPO members. Notably, in Europe and the US, mainstream consumers are starting to take note of where their ingredients are sourced and their potential impact on the environment.
“We’re seeing increasing interest from consumer goods manufacturers, particularly in Europe, but also in the US and Asia. Research has shown that consumers are increasingly looking to brands of purposes – companies that represent their ideals. They also believe that the brands they know and love should make the right choices for them and that includes sourcing sustainably,” said Dan Strechay, Global Director, Outreach & Engagement.
RSPO sees demand for the trademark on a wide variety of products. From cookies, cooking oils, margarines, cheese crackers, breakfast cereals and instant noodles.
Reflecting on palm oil’s reputation as an ingredient, Strechay says consumers should be given more credit than is often given. “They get that the issue is more complicated than ‘don't use this’ or ‘don't use that.’ The palm oil is just a crop. And, I think after the past summer where there were large scale fires across the globe, consumers realized this isn’t just a palm oil issue, but a sustainable food issue,” he continues. “Where and how we’ve grown our food is the issue. Humans caused the problem, we are also best placed to fix it. Whatever oil seed or crop is used it should be sustainably sourced. If companies use palm oil, they need to use RSPO certified sustainable palm oil,” Strechay declares.
“The recent growth in the trademark has been impressive, and it shows that companies are starting to get to a place where they are willing to talk to the consumer about palm oil and the fact that it is in their products. I give credit to our membership for endorsing the 2018 Principles and Criteria and for their further efforts on transparency. We must shift consumer focus from one of boycotting palm oil to one that actively supports sustainable palm oil. The trademark is an easy way to communicate this message,” notes Strechay.
Given the current climate situation, it’s hard to forecast what will happen in the future, he adds. “There is evidence that forest degradation and deforestation can contribute to the spread of new diseases and it certainly leads to more human/animal interactions. I do, however, foresee demand increasing as companies try to demonstrate that they are going to make the right choices for consumers, without the actual consumer having to invest time in researching a product. Using the trademark is a good way to achieve that goal,” Strechay details.
Now more than ever, consumers are looking to the brands they know and love for a sense of comfort and maybe even nostalgia, he states.
“The use of the RSPO Trademark in Latin America has begun to gain momentum as certification increases rapidly for both producers and supply chain members, particularly with refineries and consumer goods manufacturers in the region. This is evidence that the market has begun to demand RSPO certified sustainable palm products,” says Director of Latin America, Francisco Naranjo.
While the organization always encourages the use of the RSPO Trademark on members’ products, some Consumer Goods Manufacturers feel that the logo can confuse consumers as palm oil is just a small ingredient of the product.
However, the organization urges consumers to influence manufacturers by asking them to use the RSPO Trademark, if they are not already, or by supporting through their daily purchasing decisions by looking out for products that carry the RSPO Trademark. By choosing products made with certified sustainable palm oil, consumers – given the opportunity by manufacturers – can be a key factor in transforming the industry.