The plutocrats of palm oil are in trouble. The makers of Wall's ice cream and Dove soap and Flora margarine are worried you'll get the idea that these products are being produced at the expense of the rainforests of southeast Asia. Because they are. And, so far, efforts to rebrand palm-oil plantations as oases of sustainability have proved about as convincing as those old ads that insisted you couldn't tell the difference between butter and margarine.
In late November, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) will hold its sixth annual meeting in on the Indonesian island of Bali. Food manufacturers, commodity traders and plantation owners will applaud the "first trickle" of palm oil certified as wildlife and climate-friendly and definitely not grown on recently deforested land.
Sadly, this will underline how, after six years of trying to identify sustainable sources of palm oil, the RSPO has to admit that 99% of the ubiquitous edible oil – found in a ...