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The 2022 Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue – A Recap

After two years of being held solely virtually, on 20 October 2022, the 4th Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue (SPOD) took place in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as an in-person event again.

Following the theme: “Securing Sustainability in Turbulent Times,” it was organised by the following three organisations:

RSPO – The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a not-for-profit organisation that brings together palm oil producers, processors and traders, manufacturers, retailers, financial institutions, and NGOs (non-governmental organisations), to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
EPOA – The European Palm Oil Alliance, an initiative of palm oil refiners and producers to promote the use of sustainable palm oil across Europe. Members include oils and fats specialist Bunge – Loders Croklaan, agriculture and food giant Cargill, or the MVO, the Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry.
idh – A sustainable trade initiative supported by the Danish, Dutch, and Swiss governments. The foundation works across numerous sectors such as aquaculture, cotton, soy, and palm oil, reaching more than four million farmers to drive new sustainable production and trade models in thirty emerging economies.
The 2022 edition of SPOD was sponsored by Sime Darby Plantation.

The speakers at the event were (in alphabetical order):


Name Position Focus
Leony Aurora Landscapes and Partnerships Lead at the Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA), hosted by the World Economic Forum Mobilisation of private sector action
Ifran Bakhtiar Director, Strengthening Palm Oil Sustainability (SPOSI), Biodiversity Foundation (KEHATI) Working closely with the different ministries
Christophe Bordin Director Corporate Social Responsibility at Ferrero Supporting implementations to sustainable development
Mark van Baal Founder at Follow This Shareholders change the world
Frans Claassen Chair, European Palm Oil Alliance (EPOA) Involvement in sustainable palm oil development since 2003
Joseph D´Cruz CEO of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Making sustainability the norm in palm oil
Muriel Goffard Global Client Leader at Kantar Providing guidance to consumer insights and marketing teams
Neil Judd Senior Advisor at Lestari Capital Focus on the development of the Rimba collective
Gary Lewis President of the UK´s National Edible Oils Distributors Association (NEODA) Highly experienced senior industry professional
Karin Kreider Executive Director at ISEAL, the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance Driving collective efforts
Marcelo Martins Managing Director at Cargill Global Edible Oil Solutions Europe Building customer intimacy and driving sustainable growth
Kamal Prakash Seth Global Palm Oil Lead at the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Expertise in providing strategic direction
Renaka Ramachandran Chief Financial Officer/Deputy Managing Director at Sime Darby Plantation Berhard/Sime Darby Oils n.a.
Michael Rice Lawyer forest risk commodities at ClientEarth Specialist in consumption of forest-risk commodities
Maxine Roper Co-founder and Managing Director at Connecting Food Strong background in the food industry
Jusrian Saubara Orpa Yanda Chief Executive Officer at Expert in Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA)/agroecological projects
Christine Schneider Senior Manager Global Sustainability Laundry & Home Care at Henkel Measuring sustainability in innovation management
Matthew Spencer Gobal Director, Landscapes at idh Overseeing a business unit that includes regional landscape
Giacomo Tabacco Landscape Engagement Manager at Earthworm Foundation Inspiration from the interdependence of beings
Lanashree Thanda Director at BC Initiative Expertise in developing community protocols
Daan Wensing CEO and chair of the executive board of idh Strong passion for sustainable development


The programme kicked off with a welcome address from the three sponsors.

Frans Claassen of EPOA pointed out that in his view, recent anti-palm oil legislation was doing more harm than good, especially and significantly to the environment in Asian producer countries.

Daan Wensing of idh reflected on the recent turbulent times marked by COVID, conflict and climate change. He stressed the sense of urgency, given that only eight years remained to reach global climate goals. Daan also remarked that substantial progress has been made in de-linking palm oil production from deforestation. However, social issues persisted, shining a light on the need for innovative approaches, e.g., towards more inclusive practices.

Joseph D´Cruz spoke about Europe as a transformation centre for sustainable palm oil, and the need to convince more consumers and make a clear distinction between sustainable and conventional palm oil. In that context he also announced changes to the branding and communication at RSPO, geared towards telling the sustainability story even better.

Next was Mark von Baal with the topic: How to change an industry from the inside; an inspiring story on securing sustainability in turbulent times. This session discussed the urgency to continue and accelerate sustainability efforts in current global crises and mitigate effects of climate change. Mr. van Baal, who founded Follow This, is a pioneer in shareholders’ involvement in the fossil fuel industry. With persistence and smart communication, he managed to convince companies like Shell to jump on to the sustainability bandwagon.

In the session Walking the talk: Corporate leadership in sustainable palm oil, the representatives of Cargill, Ferrero and Henkel discussed efforts to reduce deforestation, protect biodiversity and address human rights concerns in the palm oil supply chain in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.

Christine Schneider from Henkel made the point that while the energy sector for example can decarbonise, products like shampoo do not have that opportunity. But instead, they can have a clean feedstock carbon source. It is for this reason that the sustainable raw material transformation is very important.

Ferrero´s Christophe Bordin mentioned that he is also representing the French Alliance for the Preservation of Forests which strongly supports a multi-sector approach to halt deforestation. Besides Ferrero, the Alliance is made up of parties such as Unilever, Nestlé, Royal Lacroix, Vandemoortele or Givaudan, among others. Christophe made it clear that the best alternative to palm oil is sustainable palm oil.

Marcelo Martins of Cargill spoke of his company´s mission to nourish the world in a sustainable way, and reflected on the planet his children and grandchildren will live in. Asked about the effects of EU legislation on small and medium palm oil growers, Marcelo remarked that 90% of the palm oil coming into Europe was already certified, and that regulation should be considered part of the sustainability journey while trying to mitigate its negative consequences.

After coffee break the following breakout sessions initiated lively debates:

Breakout session 1 – Communication: turning up the volume for impact dealt with the gap between perception and reality when it comes to palm oil, and the need to balance the narrative to create impact.
Breakout session 2 – Strange bedfellows: certification, legislation, and Public Private Partnershipsexplored what the place of certification and public private partnerships in the era of sustainability legislation could be. The discussion shone a light on the synergies between certification efforts, public private partnerships, the new EU legislation and its consequences for the market.
Breakout session 3 – Innovative ideas: delivering sustainable palm oil now! presented fresh approaches todeliver the urgent change needed considering ongoing global crises.
During this session, five innovators pitched their ideas to make sustainable palm oil the norm. A separate article will deal with the innovations that have been selected by a panel of experts from the Sustainable Palm Oil Choice and the University of Wageningen.

Following the plenary feedback on the breakout sessions, a sofa interview on the future of sustainable palm oil took place. It discussed how to create market access for food security and socio-economic developments while further reducing deforestation, protecting biodiversity and securing human rights. This interesting session will also be covered in more detail in a separate article.

After a mindful music interlude, the moderated plenary closing concluded a successful event with the presentation of the first-ever SPOD-Manifesto, which calls for four concrete actions to ensure a sustainable future for palm oil.