“They are now a trailblazer for sustainable palm and for what is possible in Mexico,” said Dan Strechay, Interim Director of Outreach & Engagement for RSPO. “Their actions will undoubtedly lead to a more sustainable palm oil industry, not only in Mexico itself, but also the rest of Latin America as it encourages a race to the top.”
It was Oleopalma’s Agroindustrias de Mapastepec mill in Chiapas that earned the company its first certification through the RSPO mass balance model – where sustainable palm oil from certified sources is mixed with ordinary palm oil throughout supply chain.
Through its Holistic Program, Oleopalma says that it first working to certify its three other mills and own palm plantations while simultaneously working to certify five independent smallholder associations within three years.
“Currently we are very excited since soon we hope that the first group of small producers (less than 50 hectares) of palm oil fresh fruit bunch suppliers will obtain RSPO certification,” the company said.
A collaborative effort
In Mexico, certification of smallholder farmers is essential to a sustainable supply chain since they make up 90% of Mexico’s 8,000 growers.
Oleopalma launched its Holistic Program three years ago with the support of PepsiCo and other key stakeholders. The technical assistance program trains smallholder farmers in good agricultural, environmental and social practices on 52,000 hectares in the regions of Palenque and Nueva Esperanza, Chiapas, Jalapa and Tenosique.
“The production of sustainable palm oil requires the effort of all collaborators at all levels of the organization and that they are only overcome with teamwork,” an Oleopalma spokesperson told FoodNavigator-LATAM.
PepsiCo, which has a global commitment to sourcing 100% RSPO certified palm oil by end 2020, says that working with mills in Mexico to make sure they are building capabilities, collecting data and managing processes diligently is a critical element to this.
“This kind of multi-stakeholder approach, working hand-in-hand with mills and with smallholder famers, can help to create sustainable livelihoods while also protecting vital ecosystems,” said Natasha Schwarzbach on PepsiCo’s Global Sustainability team. “PepsiCo is deeply committed to delivering long-term systemic change in the sector and we believe landscape approaches like this can be a vital tool.”
Mexico is PepsiCo’s largest sourcing market for palm oil in Latin America. For RSPO, it is a strategic country, not only because of the potential for increasing production of sustainable palm oil but also because it is the second-largest palm oil consumer in the region after Colombia.
“Sustainable palm oil should be all consumers, not just some bespoke supply chain for certain markets,” Strechay said.
Five other Mexican grower companies are currently seeking RSPO membership and Principles & Criteria certification, and many other industry players are seeking RSPO Supply Chain Certification, according to RSPO.