The ubiquitous palm oil is being blamed for a litany of environmental and socioeconomic woes. Some consumer brands have vowed to be palm oil-free and by 2030, the EU may phase out palm oil biofuel. But such moves may hurt sustainability efforts.

SINGAPORE (Dec 10): Recently back from Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, palm oil industry veteran M R Chandran is exuberant. The 80-year-old was there for the 16th annual conference of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an industry body pushing for sustainability, from Nov 12 to 15. This year’s conference saw the industry take bold steps, Chandran tells The Edge Singapore over the phone from Kuala Lumpur, where he is based.

He highlights how the RSPO is adopting zero deforestation standards through the High Carbon Stock Approach — a method that identifies forests with large reserves of carbon and rich biodiversity for protection. “This is not just the gold standard, it is the platinum standard for all agricultural commodities out there,” says Chandran, who retired in 1996 as a director and head of plantations at rubber and palm oil player Socfin Co.

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