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More certified palm oil in Germany:
BMEL support for sustainable palm oil having an impact

Only sustainable palm oil should be used from now on in Germany. Achieving this is an express aim of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). As part of its work to this end, the Ministry supports FONAP (Forum Nachhaltiges Palmöl, or the Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil). Peter Bleser, Parliamentary State Secretary at BMEL, confirmed FONAP’s success on the occasion of its first anniversary.

Even though FONAP already boasted 43 current members at its general assembly in Berlin on 27 September 2016, Bleser appealed for more: “So that we can succeed together in making the German palm oil market sustainable, FONAP must continue to grow. We need more members!”

Palm oil: an important and controversial renewable raw material

Palm oil has long been one of the most important renewable raw materials. Germany alone used some 1,044 million tonnes in 2015. It has an extremely wide range of uses. Palm oil is everywhere: in confectionery, in margarine, in candles, in washing and cleaning products, and in many industrial products. Almost every sector makes use of palm oil, whose consistency and properties make it well suited for numerous industrial applications. On the face of it, using renewable raw materials and doing without fossil – petroleum-based – resources is a good thing. But cultivated raw materials, too, must be produced sustainably and responsibly.


We are on the right track. But on this, your first anniversary, allow me also to say that time goes faster as we get older. We have no time to lose, because the forest fires and land evictions continue. So let’s tackle the ongoing challenges now.” State Secretary Peter Bleser

Yet the reality of palm oil cultivation is often very different: Natural forest is cut down or burned, endangered species like the orangutan lose their habitats, soils are contaminated with pesticides, and peasants are evicted or threatened when they protest against new oil palm plantations.

BMEL has therefore demanded for several years that “only certified sustainable palm oil should be used from now on in Germany. In this way, the sectors that use palm oil can live up to their responsibility to the environment and human rights in producer countries,” Bleser underscored in his welcome address to the general assembly.

Positive news: use of certified sustainable palm oil increasing in Germany

A recent (2016) Meo Carbon Solutions study on German palm oil consumption in 2015 shows that all sectors and many companies in Germany increased the use of certified palm oil between 2013 and 2015:
• According to the findings of the study, 47 percent of palm oil used in Germany came from certified sustainable cultivation in 2015. That is 12 percentage points more than in 2013. The figures relate to all sectors other than energy. This is because palm oil used in the energy sector – like other forms of biomass – can only be counted against statutory greenhouse gas quotas if it is certified sustainable.

• Including the energy sector, certified palm oil accounted for 72 percent.

• The sector that uses the most sustainable palm oil is the food industry, where certified sustainable palm oil makes up 79 percent according to the study.

• The study puts the figure for the animal feed industry at just 15 percent. However, this marks a 12 percentage point increase on 2013.

• According to the study findings, 60 percent of palm oil in household washing and cleaning products is certified, as against only 10 percent of palm oil used in industrial cleaning products.

• In other words, less consumer-focused sectors make lesser use of certified palm oil than sectors where consumers buy off the shelf.

The study was partly funded by BMEL via FONAP and, as State Secretary Bleser said, the figures show "which sectors of industry FONAP must target more directly in future."

Can palm oil be replaced by other oils? No, confirms WWF study


There are frequent calls for palm oil to be substituted with other oils. "The BMEL does not think calls to substitute palm oil with other oils are helpful. That does not solve the problems, it merely shifts them elsewhere. The better way remains to produce palm oil sustainably and not to waste it," explained State Secretary Bleser. This position is also confirmed by a 2016 study on the subject by WWF Germany, ‘Oil traces: Calculations for a palm oil-free future’.


Producing ‘substitute’ vegetable oils would require about 1.4 million hectares of additional land to be brought under cultivation according to the WWF. The increased area under cultivation and the associated land use change would also make for higher greenhouse gas emissions. WWF’s model calculations also project severe negative impacts of substitute oils on biodiversity. The additional land needed for other oils would mean greater pressure on ecosystems worldwide.


The WWF study only identifies a lesser impact on biodiversity where palm oil is substituted with rapeseed and sunflower oils grown in Europe. Technically speaking, about a million tonnes of palm oil used in Germany could thus be substituted with domestically grown rapeseed oil. However, this would require an additional 730,000 hectares of land for cultivation in Germany, which as the WWF says is not available.

FONAP palm oil forum an exemplary multi-stakeholder initiative

FONAP (Forum Nachhaltiges Palmöl, or the Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil) goes back to an initiative of the BMEL, a number of companies and the WWF. It is an alliance of palm oil processing industry, industry associations, the BMEL and non-governmental organisations.

Its aim is to raise the market share of certified sustainable palm oil in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to 100 percent and to improve existing standards and certification. The Forum currently has 43 members. Its secretariat is hosted by GIZ, the German Development Agency.

FONAP is the most effective lever in Germany for improving production conditions on the ground – because FONAP ensures that our standards are heard and given weight in certification schemes. Small and medium-sized enterprises especially benefit from FONAP’s advisory service for discussions with suppliers. We will only succeed in making the market sustainable if we work together." State Secretary Peter Bleser


FONAP e.V. was registered as an association in Berlin on 11 November 2015. The members of the initiative thus put the forum on an institutional basis two years after its initial launch. What was previously a voluntary commitment to use exclusively certified palm oil gained a binding legal framework for the first time. The ambitious voluntary commitment by member companies is exemplary in comparison with other sectoral initiatives for sustainable production of agricultural raw materials. The BMEL provides FONAP with financial support via Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (FNR – the Agency for Renewable Resources). FONAP members also provide financial resources of their own.

Alongside words of thanks to FONAP on its first anniversary, State Secretary Bleser also underscored at the general assembly the importance of credibility and transparency for the work of the association: "The prime responsibility of FONAP member companies is to continue implementing the voluntary commitment with binding effect. FONAP has given a public pledge to work for improvements in certification schemes. The association must also continue its persuasive efforts to recruit more companies as members."

Other BMEL activities for sustainability in oil palm cultivation

Visit to Indonesia by Federal Agriculture Minister Schmidt and planned establishment of German-Indonesian working group on palm oil

• On a visit in April 2016, Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt held policy talks with the Indonesian government on sustainability requirements in palm oil production. A successful outcome of those talks is Indonesia’s assent to the establishment of a German-Indonesian working group to promote sustainable production and sustainable consumption of palm oil across the entire value chain. BMEL is developing the conceptual framework.

• Half of the palm oil produced worldwide comes from Indonesia. Federal Minister Schmidt’s visit was instrumental in the Indonesian government showing openness to dialogue on sustainability and to the further evolution of the national Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) standard.

• The EU will soon enter into negotiations with Indonesia on a free trade agreement. The BMEL is working to secure the incorporation into the agreement of specific approaches promoting sustainable oil palm cultivation.


Activities at EU level and Amsterdam Declaration

• In December 2015, together with the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Denmark (Norway followed in 2016), Federal Minister Schmidt signed the Amsterdam Declaration in Support of a Fully Sustainable Palm Oil Supply Chain by 2020 and the Amsterdam Declaration Towards Eliminating Deforestation from Agricultural Commodity Chains. This was the first time that a shared objective and shared expectations on palm oil were formulated in the European context.

• The signatory states resolved to cooperate in a follow-up process. Working together under the framework of EU climate, forestry and trade policy, they aim to identify further points of departure for advancing the objectives of the Declaration.

• Alongside this, there are plans for more exchange between various sectoral initiatives and other major user countries – and also producer countries – and for specific implementation monitoring activities. This dialogue started with China, where interest in sustainably produced palm oil is also growing.

As of:
28.09.16

Further information

Forest Climate Fund

Waldboden in Nahaufnahme

The Forest Climate Fund is part of the programme associated with the Energy and Climate Fund. A decision by the German Bundestag called for it to be established from 2013 under the joint responsibility of the Federal Ministries of Agriculture (BMEL) and the Environment (BMUB).

more: Forest Climate Fund …

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