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The role of palm oil in achieving the United Nations SDGs

A report from the Cmcc foundation/Attachment

Investigate and investigate "The socio-economic aspects related to palm oil production and the achievement of sustainable development goals" to contribute to a more informed debate and outline the possible contribution of palm oil production to achieving the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. This is the main intent of the recent analysis conducted by the Cmcc foundation (Euro-Mediterranean center on climate change), the results of which were illustrated last Thursday 24 June by the experts of the Iafes division (Impacts on Agriculture, Forests and Ecosystem Services), Monia Santini. , Matteo Bellotta and Maria Vincenza Chiriacò.

The CMCC has carried out an in-depth analysis of the existing literature that addresses the various socio-economic aspects related to the development of the palm oil supply chain. The contents and relevant information of each of the 82 scientific publications published between 2010 and 2020 selected for review have been linked with 8 SDGs chosen on the basis of their close correlation with socio-economic development: defeating poverty, defeating hunger, health and well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation, decent work and economic growth, reduce inequalities and with the principles and criteria that govern sustainability certification.

Overall, most of the studies analyzed agree that palm oil plays a crucial role in supporting the economy and livelihood of local communities in developing producing countries. The adoption of sustainable oil palm production schemes, in addition to not harming the environment, offers the opportunity to improve many indicators of the socio-economic impact, linked to the expansion of oil palm production. The most complete and effective certification standard, albeit perfectible, according to the studies examined, was found to be that of RSPO.

"From the work it emerges clearly that most of the studies analyzed show a consistent presence of admittedly positive impacts", says Matteo Bellotta. "The incidence of positive impacts on socio-economic indicators grows as we move on to examine more recent publications that refer to sustainable production". Commenting on the main results of the study, Chiriacò also adds that: "the production of palm oil and in particular that produced according to sustainability schemes, supports the economy and the livelihood of local communities in many developing producing countries, it contributes to the reduction of poverty rates and improves physical, social and economic access to food”.

However, the analysis highlighted how difficult it is to draw definitive conclusions and uniform points of view from the analysis of the existing literature, which must be interpreted according to the site-specific situations investigated. The multitude of documents analyzed in fact returns different perspectives, sometimes even opposite, highlighting variegated nuances and facets for the 8 reference SDGs, some of which are inevitably interconnected. In addition to the undoubted and widespread positive impacts, the study also highlighted some critical issues, essentially attributable to gender equality, the guarantee of decent working conditions and the reduction of inequalities, which not surprisingly are the subject of particular attention by stakeholders and which also led RSPO to introduce additional specific criteria and protocols, especially on the occasion of the latest revision of the "Principles & Criteria 2018", whose impacts are not yet fully measurable by the existing scientific literature. Following these results, Cmcc will carry out further investigations aimed at evaluating any differences between conventional palm oil and certified sustainable palm oil in terms of environmental impact.

According to the president of the Italian union for sustainable palm oil, Giuseppe Allocca, "The conclusions of the review conducted by Cmcc therefore confirm that the boycott of palm oil, the most used globally among the vegetable oils of which it represents over 35% of production is not the solution at all. On the contrary, it would also have deleterious effects from a socio-economic as well as environmental point of view, moving us away from the objectives of the 2030 agenda. The strategy to be pursued is instead that of supporting the transition of the palm oil supply chain towards production and 'exclusive use of sustainable palm oil and the adoption of increasingly stringent certification standards to protect the planet and people, creating an ever greater awareness of the difference between certified sustainable palm oil and conventional palm oil”.

Attached is the Cmcc report "The socio-economic aspects connected to palm oil production and the achievement of sustainable development goals".

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