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Palm oil producers urged to commit to sustainability to safeguard investment



With representatives from across the supply chain meeting in London on Wednesday for a summit on the palm oil industry, signatories of the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) have urged producers to adopt less environmentally damaging practices.

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, and can be found in around half of all packaged consumer products in Europe and the US.

However, many producers have a devastating environmental footprint, as they are responsible for deforestation and the destruction of vulnerable habitats around the world. Some have also been accused of human rights offences and clashes with local communities.

In a new statement, the PRI’s Sustainable Palm Oil Investor Working Group (IWG) has urged all palm oil producers to commitment to ending deforestation, development on peat lands and violations of human rights. 

“The significant growth and accompanying globalisation of the palm oil industry means that producers must once and for all put aside the slash and burn mentality of their early years”, said Mark Mills, partner at Generation Investment Management and chairman of the IWG.

“They must now adhere to environmental, social and governance practices which will ensure their license to operate and safeguard the capital provided by the industry’s increasingly global investors.”

As an example, the IWG praises the efforts of some major produces, such as Wilmar International, to embrace sustainability.

Wilmar, which produces or trades around 45% of the world’s palm oil supply, has committed to ensuring its produce is deforestation-free.

“Commitments such as those made by Wilmar provide a positive signal and direction for the rest of the industry”, Mills added.

The working group’s statement was timed to coincide with a meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in London on Wednesday.

The RSPO is an association of palm oil companies, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks, investors, and NGOs.

At the event, the World Resources Institute (WRI) released accessible maps for all RSPO certified palm oil concessions through its pioneering Global Forest Watch platform. The maps encompass over 1.6 million hectares of palm oil concessions across five countries. 

“Combining RSPO data with the power of Global Forest Watch marks a new era of transparency for the palm oil sector”, said Darrel Webber, secretary general of the RSPO. 

“By releasing maps showing all certified palm oil plantations, RSPO member companies are inviting business partners, governments, and the public to ensure their operations protect forests and communities where palm oil is produced.”

In 2012, RSPO certified producers accounted for 12% of all palm oil. However, in November it was revealed that 16 of the palm oil firms that signed up to the RSPO failed to meet its environmental and social standards.

Photo: oneVillage Initiative via Flickr

Further reading:

Global Forest Watch: Deforestation tool launched ‘to change how businesses manage forests’

Storebrand to divest from unsustainable palm oil firms

Palm oil giant Wilmar commits to sustainable sourcing

Unilever leads the way in aiming to use only ‘traceable’ palm oil



Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations



green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions



auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.


The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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