Ahold is an international retailer with operations in the US and Europe. Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil in the world, and it is estimated that it is used in about half of all packaged products sold in supermarkets worldwide. Palm oil is used as an ingredient in many of Ahold’s products although it never buys palm oil directly.
Palm oil is grown in the tropics, mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, and if managed incorrectly can lead to deforestation and loss of important habitats. In addition, there are a number of important social issues linked to the expansion of oil palm plantations. Many small farmers and smallholders rely on palm oil for their livelihoods. It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the world's palm oil is produced by smallholders who often use unsustainable practices and produce small yields as well as facing the social issues.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) began as a multi-stakeholder initiative to establish standards for more environmentally and socially responsible production. Farmers producing palm oil to these standards are third-party audited, and become RSPO certified. The RSPO wants to support smallholders on their path to certification because in addition to better environmental and social practices, the farming practices embedded in the RSPO standard can result in much higher yields and thus higher incomes for farmers.
Unfortunately smallholders must overcome many issues before becoming certified, and the current system often inadvertently excludes some from certification.
You will be asked to brainstorm the role of a retailer in ensuring smallholder inclusion in palm oil sustainability initiatives such as the RSPO.