Haze fight: Firms asked to review sources of palm oil

Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) hope to make firms consider more carefully whether their palm oil comes from sustainable sources that do not contribute to the haze situation in the region.

The local arm of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has written to 19 Singapore businesses asking them how much palm oil they use and where it comes from. It declined to identify them as discussions have just begun, but said the firms were mostly from the consumer goods industry.

On Sept 14, another NGO, People's Movement to Stop Haze (PM.Haze), launched an online campaign for the public to pledge to "#GoHazeFree". There have been 430 signatures so far.

PM.Haze's campaign is in response to a survey it conducted in July. It found that many restaurants in Singapore use cooking oil containing palm oil that has not been certified as haze-free. Certification means that the palm oil was produced sustainably and does not contribute to the haze problem plaguing the region.

PM.Haze president Tan Yi Han said businesses his NGO spoke to were reluctant to switch to sustainable palm oil sources as consumers do not demand it, and he realised that customers have to voice their support for haze-free palm oil to effect change.

He added: "Many of these businesses have a wide regional presence, and if they go haze-free, it can create a ripple effect across the entire region as competitors follow suit."

As for WWF, it said the aim of writing to the local companies was to get them to be "transparent" and let their customers know if the palm oil used is sustainable or contributes to the haze.

Last week, WWF released a scorecard for global companies who buy palm oil.

The assessment measured 137 European, American, Canadian, Australian, Indian and Japanese companies on their commitment to buy sustainable palm oil and the transparency of their sourcing and procurement choices. American retailer Target, for example, scored only one out of nine points.

WWF and the Singapore Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil are currently preparing a similar scorecard for firms in Singapore and the region, which will be released in the middle of next year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 28, 2016, with the headline 'Haze fight: Firms asked to review sources of palm oil'. Print Edition | Subscribe