Norway goes cold on palm oil

Khor Reports: Norway says "no way", with (i) a key pension fund selling down all plantation equities except for Sime Darby at end-2012 and (ii) a successful NGO campaign slashing palm oil consumed by two-thirds on fears of deforestation.

There has been a symbolic sell-down of plantation company equity holdings by the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG). Pressured by activists, the hydrocarbon exporting nation decided to become “more green” by selling off all holdings, while raising its stake in Sime Darby (the largest plantation company) by end 2012. This move relates to the “Fund’s policy on risk related to climate change and tropical deforestation.”(1) Experts question its methodology of selection and analysts worry about whether other fund managers in developing countries might be pressured to do the same.

Other news from Norway is of a highly successful campaign by Rainforest Foundation Norway to cut by two-thirds its 2011 level of consumption of palm oil from 3 kg to 1 kg per capita (Norwegian food producers used 15,000 tons of palm oil in 2011). “Producers were asked to disclose details about their use of palm oil, and whether the palm oil was sourced from sustainable sources. Norwegian law obliges companies to provide such information, if it is considered relevant for environmental concerns. The results of the investigation were published in a “palm oil guide”, a unique web-based tool where consumers can check the occurrence of palm oil in Norwegian food products. Previously, this information was unavailable, and the use of palm oil concealed as “vegetable oil” or “vegetable fat”.” (2) The palm oil guide is worth a look as it gives details on palm oil content in different products (850 food products by October 2012) (3). Apparently, all food producers except for General Mills made disclosure or were compelled to. As it is not a Norwegian company, the US food producer could not be made to do so. The pressure group reports that in trying to educate the Norwegian public on deforestation issues, they often found journalists and others distracted by concerns on saturated fats.      

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