How Can We Conserve Rainforests as Suppliers Seek to Meet Increasing Demand for Palm Oil?
A traditional rainforest canopy in Borneo (left) and a section of rainforest after logging for a palm oil plantation (right)
Palm oil is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil, but environmental and social concerns surrounding its production make it one of the most controversial crops. Our speakers will examine the challenges we face in conserving biodiversity in rapidly changing landscapes, and the role that science, citizens, and certification can play toward a sustainable future.
More than 45 million tons of palm oil are produced annually, of which about 87 percent is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil is used in about 50 percent of packaged food products on supermarket shelves and has also been developed to produce biodiesel.
The cultivation of oil palm has been criticized for multiple negative impacts on the natural environment, including deforestation and the loss of natural habitats, which has threatened critically endangered species such as the Sumatran orangutan and Sumatran tiger.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil. It offers certification to producers that can demonstrate commitment to eight principles, including a commitment to transparency, environmental responsibility, conservation of natural resources, and responsible development of new plantings.
Since 2008, Earthwatch has supported research to maintain the health and strength of the rainforest in Borneo in the face of changes in climate and land use.
The keynote speaker is Dr. Glen Reynolds, director of the South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) and leading Earthwatch scientist for the research project Climate and Landscape Change in Borneo’s Rainforest.
Dr. Reynolds has been the program manager and senior scientist at SEARRP since 2000, and is based at the Danum Valley Field Centre. He is also a research fellow in the Department of Geography at the University of Wales, Swansea, and an honorary research fellow of the NERC Centre for Population Biology at Silwood Park. His main research interests include forest rehabilitation and its impacts on ecosystem functioning and biodiversity. His current research interests include quantifying the impacts of RSPO certification, to fill key knowledge gaps in testing and developing the RSPO’s Principles and Criteria for sustainability in oil palm agriculture.
Darrel Webber is the Secretary General of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. He joined the RSPO as Secretary General in January 2011, based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. His last position was Senior Associate of Global Sustainability Associates, a role which required him to provide senior counsel to companies and organizations about agricultural development (including oil palm). Prior to that, he was Senior Manager Palm Oil Sector Engagement at WWF-International. Darrel speaks in numerous thought leadership forums and conferences all around the world on sustainability.
Leela Barrock is Group Head of Communications & Corporate Affairs at Sime Darby – a major Malaysia-based multinational conglomerate involved in 5 core sectors: plantations, property, industrial, motors and energy and utilities. It is one of the largest palm oil producers in the world, supplying approximately 6% of the world supply. It is the world’s largest producer of certified palm oil.
Chairing the event is Dr Mark Collins.
Dr Collins is the Vice Chair of the Earthwatch board – a position he has held since 2012. Dr Collins is a tropical ecologist trained in natural sciences at Oxford University and Imperial College, London, and with an MBA from the Open University. Following a 40 year career in environmental and international organizations, often overseas or on scientific expeditions, he now devotes his time to supporting environmental NGOs and civil society.
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