Help Dorset Become The First Sustainable Palm Oil County

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

A local campaign is running to make Dorset the world’s first sustainable palm oil county, and businesses in Dorchester can help!

Bournemouth and Dorchester-based Efeca has worked alongside governments, civil society and private companies in over 30 countries to help encourage sustainable trade and responsible sourcing.

Responsible for the UK Sustainable Palm Oil Initiative and Roundtable for industry, Efeca is on a mission to make Dorset the world’s first sustainable palm oil county with the help of supporting businesses.

Lucy Cullinane from Efeca told us a bit more about the background and how businesses in Dorchester can get involved.

What is palm oil and why is it in 50% of all packaged goods in a supermarket?

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. It is versatile, efficient, tasteless and odourless, making it the world’s most widely used vegetable oil. Approximately half of all packaged products in an average UK supermarket now contain palm oil. These include cakes, biscuits, instant noodles, cloudy lemonade, lipsticks, shampoo, cosmetics, soaps and cleaning products.

How can businesses in Dorchester help be more sustainable when it comes to palm oil?

Join our initiative – by signing up to be a sustainable palm oil champion, you are saying no to conventional palm oil. It is important that companies start telling their suppliers that they only want sustainable palm oil. RSPO certified palm oil must be deforestation free. It must also meet certain standards, which include assessing land for its conservation value before developing new plantations; including wildlife corridors; improving working conditions for producers; prohibiting illegal and child labour; and gaining permission from communities beforehand.

Why should I not avoid palm oil altogether? Sir David Attenborough and almost 100 globally-renowned conservation organisations including WWF, Conservation International, Orangutan Land Trust, and Save the Rhino advocate a move to sustainable palm oil over a blanket boycott. Palm oil is the most efficient vegetable oil, and switching to an alternative could require up to nine times as much land to produce the same yield – worsening deforestation and other impacts.

All agriculture has an impact: bananas, beef, cane sugar, cocoa, coconuts, coffee, pineapples, soybeans, tea and vanilla are all produced in previously forested tropical areas. With over 4.5 million people in Indonesia alone relying on the palm oil industry as their primary source of income, we need to ensure that it is cultivated in a way that will benefit people, wildlife and climate. Palm oil does not need to be grown at the expense of forests and other sensitive natural habitats. Instead, we need to break the link between development and the degradation of natural ecosystems.

It is also widely believed that a boycott of palm oil would drive the price down, reducing the incentive to produce environmentally sustainable palm oil. If we don’t demand sustainable palm oil then the producers won’t have motivation to create it – we need to be part of the solution.

Which type of businesses in Dorchester would this be most applicable to?

This is most applicable to organisations and businesses that are involved in the food sector, including cafes, restaurants, fast food outlets, and hotels, but also tourist attractions, gyms, leisure centres, and businesses with canteens. We have had significant interest from the Dorchester schools, which is great, as it gets this important message to the next generation. Hopefully sustainable palm oil will be the norm when the students of the champion schools grow up.

What other businesses in Dorset have signed up as sustainable palm oil champions?

We have quite a few champions already, but need more! Our very first champion was Coconut & Cotton, a zero waste shop in Shaftesbury, followed swiftly by St Osmund’s CoE Middle School and Prince of Wales First School here in Dorchester. Since then, we have had Bournemouth University, Fish n Fritz, a fish and chip shop in Weymouth, and Forerunner and Local Food Links, two school food providers that between them cover a substantial area of the county.

Warrior Agency, an ethical PR agency in Bournemouth and A2B magazine have signed up as Ambassadors to support the campaign. Although they do not supply food, they were both keen to step forward and say yes to sustainable palm oil and make sure that it is used in any of their events. Dorset Climate Action Network (DorsetCAN) are also supporting the initiative.

We also have several other champions in the pipeline who are in the process of signing up, which is very exciting!

Can you explain what exactly Dorset is planning to do to become the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil County?

In 2019, Chester Zoo started the Sustainable Palm Oil Communities initiative. Since then, five other towns, cities and villages have joined the project: Saltash, Oxford, Plymouth, Newquay and Mochdre. In August 2021, we added the first county, Dorset! However, we need help to achieve the status of the world’s first sustainable palm oil county. Dorset businesses and organisations can do this by signing up to the initiative, becoming a champion, making a pledge to find out where they source their palm oil from, making changes where possible to ensure that they only use sustainable palm oil, and then telling people that they have done so.

The hospitality industry will play a big role in increasing demand for sustainable palm oil, but we are also aiming to get representation from organisations in a variety of sectors across Dorset. Our objective to become the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil County is to recruit 50 Champions before the end of 2021, so it is a big ask. This could reach thousands of people living in Dorset, so it could have a big impact.

Bournemouth beach, dorset

How can businesses be more eco friendly over Christmas?

Check your labels! Go to the Chester Zoo sustainable palm oil shopping list, find out what brands only use sustainable palm oil and stock them. Tell the brands that you stop stocking exactly why you have decided not to use them anymore, and encourage them to use sustainable palm oil.

What should businesses in Dorchester do to find out more / sign up?

Go to https://www.efeca.com/our-work/dorset-sustainable-community  for more information and to sign up, or email dorsetsustainablecommunity@efeca.com. The Dorset Sustainable Palm Oil Community initiative is being led by Efeca, a small team of experts working on resourcing commodities sustainably, based in Dorset, who has worked with private sector, public sector and NGOs nationally and internationally. We decided, after supporting Chester Zoo and their Sustainable Palm Oil City in Chester, that we wanted to give something back to our local community of Dorset.

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