“In a bid to tackle transboundary haze at its source, several companies, including Unilever and Danone, have joined forces to advocate the use of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO)” (Corporate Alliance Aims to Deliver ‘Haze-Free’ Products, Regina Marie Lee).
As encouraging as the mission of the Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil may be – to “[raise] awareness of the link between haze and unsustainable palm oil, and [to share] information on how to source sustainably” (TODAY, Jun. 28) – the commitment to certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) should go beyond advocacy, with more concrete indicators and targets to respectively show how existing members of the corporate alliance have made progress, and how prospective members should make the switch to CSPO. Furthermore to broaden the reach of the proposed advocacy, strategies could be designed and shared among the companies, to also educate Singaporean consumers.
At the moment, alliance members who were cited in the report – Ayam Brand, Danone, and IKEA – have already made operational changes, and have switched to or are in the process of switching to CSPO by the end of this decade. Yet because they are large local corporates or multi-nationals, it is less clear whether small and medium enterprises (SMEs) see the long-term value of such switches, or whether they can necessarily take advantage of the economies of scale their bigger counterparts enjoy. The fact that IKEA has helped to absorb half of the cost as its suppliers move to CSPO highlights the importance of financial incentives, beyond mere “encouragement” promised by companies in the alliance.
Running parallel to these outreaches to corporate entities could be endeavours – perhaps crafted with civil society or non-profit organisations – to disseminate more public information related to CSPO. Consumers in Singapore, unless directly affected by transboundary haze, may not be cognisant of sustainable palm oil and how the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil addresses the environmental impact of palm oil cultivation, and in the long-term these higher levels of awareness could in turn encourage SMEs to respond too. Such pressures, in a more idealistic future, could spur more active political and geopolitical action to complement these ground-up developments.
A version of this article was published in TODAY.