The Search for Sustainable Palm

Justin's Nut Butter and the Search for Sustainable Palm Oil
by Jonathan Bardelline
Green Business
August 2011

"In searching for the greenest possible option, Gold eventually came across Agropalma, a Brazil palm oil producer that distributes in North America through ingredient company Ciranda.

The RSPO began auditing Agropalma's operations in the last week, but Justin's is a step ahead of RSPO certification because it only buys organic palm oil from Agropalma, which already carries EcoSocial certification, a program with environmental and social standards.

"Most of the RSPO sustainability approach has to do with conventional palm oil, and not organic," said Prescott Bergh, Ciranda's director of marketing.

Ciranda has primarily dealt with small, niche manufacturers, and hasn't drawn queries from bigger companies looking for sustainable palm oil, mainly because those larger players aren't also looking for organic palm oil.

"There is good supply [of organic, sustainable palm oil]. There is more available than is sold," Bergh said. "We certainly have capacity to grow." He said Ciranda's ability to supply sustainable palm oil would only be a problem if a larger company, like a Jif or Skippy, wanted to buy from them. "We'd love to have that problem," he said.

The organic certification tied to EcoSocial is what makes that certification stricter than RSPO, Bergh said. Both certifications cover soil fertility, erosion, energy use, water quality, waste, greenhouse gas emissions and other topics. "The whole efforts in sustainability are fairly similar," Bergh said.

But as with sustainable forestry, which has a few competing certifications, there are some specific differences. EcoSocial forbids the use of genetically modified organisms, while RSPO certification has nothing to say about GMOs. EcoSocial also leans a bit more on human and social criteria, with attention given to Fair Trade practices."