WWF welcomes ecologically friendly palm oil measure

Posted: 15 February 2002

Switzerland's largest retail chain, Migros, in collaboration with WWF, the conservation organization, has become the first European retailer to commit to source all of its palm oil from plantations that have not been established at the expense of tropical forests.

Palm oil is used in a wide range of consumer products, from margarine to lipstick and detergent. However, in the major producing countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, tropical forests are cut down in order for palm oil plantations to be put in their place.

Palm oil tree and worker, Ghana. Credit: WWF-Switzerland/U. SpinnerThe global production of palm oil has doubled over the last decade to reach 23 million tonnes per year, and over 10 million hectares are now under plantation. WWF research shows that together with illegal logging, forest conversion to oil palm is now the major threat to tropical rainforests in Indonesia. Startled by the pictures of the catastrophe caused by this forest conversion, Migros decided that it wanted to ensure that its products made of palm oil would not threaten tropical forests. It therefore contacted WWF for assistance in developing a list of minimum environmental and social criteria for its palm oil products.

Among other criteria, ecologically friendly palm oil plantations must not be established on recently deforested land, and they have to include measures to secure wildlife and forests corridors. This helps to protect highly endangered species of animals, such as the orang-utan, the Sumatra tiger, the Asian elephant or the Asian rhinoceros that currently face loosing their habitat to palm oil plantations.

In addition, such production might help to reduce the likelihood of devastating forest fires such as those that hit Indonesia in 1997 and were largely caused by burning forests for land clearance and palm oil tree plantations.

Migros, whose total annual turnover amounts to approximately 20 billion Swiss Francs (around 12 billion US dollars), is the largest Swiss buyer of palm oil which it uses in a range of products. Migros' first delivery of palm oil came from Ghana and has been produced by using sustainable methods.

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