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Minister Masagos Zulkifli at SASPO's Commitments to Sustainable Palm Oil event

Ten local food and beverage (F&B) businesses, including prominent brands such as Crystal Jade, F&N and Tung Lok have committed to sourcing sustainable palm oil in alliance with the Southeast Asia Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil (SASPO).

According to a press release, this triples the number of local businesses with public commitments to 100% sustainable palm oil. Together, the companies account for over 81 brands and 200 F&B outlets in Singapore, and will be taking steps towards responsible sourcing of palm oil through SASPO.

According to Elaine Tan, chief executive officer, WWF Singapore, one of the the founding organisations of SASPO, the alliance is the first private sector-led initiative in this region to address the need for sustainable palm oil, "The addition of the 10 companies to SASPO raises the bar for corporate responsibility to the environment, and puts the Singapore business community ahead of the region."

One of the new companies that have recently stepped out in support of sustainable palm oil is Commonwealth Capital Group, whose popular brands include PastaMania, Kraftwich, Swissbake, Udders Ice Cream and The Soup Spoon among others.

“Sustainable practices is not a corporate buzzword to acquire but a prerequisite for building global businesses for the long term. In this regard, we count it a privilege to help raise awareness amongst consumers and in the market on the importance of growing businesses sustainably, together,” Andrew Kwan, group managing director, Commonwealth Capital said.

Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS), which operates Jurong Bird Park, Night Safari, River Safari, and Singapore Zoo, is also one of the existing organisations to use sustainable palm oil for cooking in its F&B outlets. In a press statement, Mike Barclay, chief executive officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, said that the cultivation of palm oil in a non-sustainable manner is having a devastating impact on regional rainforest habitats.

"In line with our mission to protect biodiversity, we use only certified sustainable palm oil for cooking in our food and beverage outlets, and we aim to raise awareness about this important issue amongst the guests who visit our parks. We encourage businesses to switch to using only sustainable palm oil and for consumers to voice their support,” Barclay added.

Consumer support for the use of responsible palm oil sourcing is also on the rise. A YouGov study found
that 56% of Singapore consumers support companies with ethical supply chains. In a recent campaign ran by WWF in late 2017, Singapore consumers showed their support for sustainable palm oil by sending 60,000 emails to local brands. An online petition for sustainable palm oil started by local students also garnered 8,000 signatures in total.

“For a business, changing palm oil sourcing is always a commitment, a joint effort and a journey. But every step taken shows other businesses in Singapore and the region that it can be done. Over time, this pushes the industry towards using a 100% sustainably-sourced palm oil,” Hervé Simon, group marketing director, Denis Asia Pacific, which produces Ayam Brand.

With surmounting socio-environmental issues from unsustainable palm oil to dire impacts on biodiversity and the transboundary haze, businesses have become increasingly aware of the importance of making sustainable palm oil part of their business imperatives. In Denmark, France, Italy, Germany and the UK, industries are leading the transition by making collective public commitments to 100% sustainable palm oil by 2020.

Late last year, Old Chang Kee and Polar Puffs have come grabbed some attention online after a group of students known as Students of Singapore (SOS) Against Haze created an online petition calling for the brands to stop contributing to forest fires. This is through their use of palm oil from “potentially unsustainable” sources. According to the petition titled “Tell Old Chang Kee & Polar Puffs to stop frying our rainforests”, both companies use palm oil originating from “potentially unsustainable plantations and supply chains”.