Australia raises the stakes on Palm Oil

Jul 20, 2011 | Blogs

Trivial? So it would seem.

Australia’s anticipated move to force companies to label the palm oil content of their products may at first glance appear to be trivial, especially when trying to address a massive problem like tropical deforestation. But is it?

Rather unexpectedly, the Australians seem to have done something no one else has. Whilst most countries are trying to get businesses to be more transparent and accountable, the Australians have leap-frogged everyone and taken the lead on palm oil.

This raises new risks for brands heavily dependent on palm oil. It also means companies producing palm oil could face a second wave of scrutiny from customers who want to minimise the impacts on brands, and ultimately sales.

But the ripples go even wider.

If palm oil can get labeled in Australia, what next? Are there other hidden risks to mainstream business models, linked to biodiversity and ecosystem services, which may come to the fore? Is there cause for companies to review the risks in their supply chains, particularly impacts on the natural world? By all indications, the answer is yes.

For anxious CSR and sustainability managers, there is a growing range of tools available to begin the process. Check out The Corporate Ecosystem Services Review – Guidelines for Identifying Business Risks and Opportunities Arising from Ecosystem Change published by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

Additionally, for further advice on this subject, feel free to contact Yohan Hill, and be sure to take a look at our recent Knowledge Series seminar, held earlier this year, on the topic Business and Biodiversity. Online recordings of each presentation can be viewed at Corporate Citizenship’s Vimeo Channel.

Take note: palm oil issues are far from trivial and are not going to disappear.