What do they have in common? Well, for sustainable palm oil, certified fair trade chocolate and organic cotton, they’re three of the most relevant raw materials to big corporations seeking to re-vamp their environmental images. But there’s something more important about them…it’s the catalytic effect that purchase of these three materials by the big corporations have on the global supply. In short, the more you buy, the more they make, the less you buy, the more just sits there.
Earlier this year I blogged on my eco fashion blog about the enormous oversupply of organic cotton that had been just sitting there in warehouses unused by the major textile producers. What a shame that the Topshops, H&M’s, Gaps and everyone else couldn’t answer the consumer demand and get this product pulsing through the global economy. Well, this week there are two headlines out there to the positive, about the sudden focus on palm oil and fair trade chocolate by some big manufacturers.
Lets start with palm oil. None of us can forget Greenpeace’s dramatic response to Unilever’s Dove Real Beauty campaign, pointing out that while they were doing good work around self esteem and social issues, they were also doing a good job destroying Indonesian rainforests in their quest for the palm oil to make those same products. Well today EL reports that more than 250,000 metric tons of certified sustainable palm oil have been purchased since its availability late last year, marking the first stages of a viable market for sustainable palm oil, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Companies like Unilever and Seventh Generation were stated as being behind the push, which has brought the purchase of global sustainable palm oil from 1% in May of this year at 15,000 tons to 50% in September and October. So…is it a swift kick that made this possible…? Frankly, who cares. As long as the stuff is being bought, the market is continuing to grow, the producers are getting a voice on a global stage, and companies like Seventh Gen are leading the charge by committing to 100% sustainable by 2012, we’re happy.
Chocolate is getting its limelight too. We previously talked about Cadbury’s exuberant launch of their new Fair Trade candy bars. Now the unlikely player Kraft Foods has committed to purchasing 30,000 tons of fair trade chocolate in partnership with the Rainforest Alliance by 2012, a promise that has already improved yields and made significant productivity gains, in some cases above 50 percent, according to the project. The incidence of cocoa ‘black pod’ disease was also reduced by one third and farmer incomes have improved.
It’s really exciting to see companies not only commit to sustainable sourcing in the long term, but to see on a global scale their changes make a big difference in the global economy and the stores of sustainable raw materials, making them more available and affordable for all. This is change in the making, folks.
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