Palm oil sustainability group reinstates Nestle membership

FILE PHOTO: A Nestle logo is pictured on a coffee factory in Orbe, Switzerland May 31, 2018. Picture taken May 31, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Nestle's NESN.S membership in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been reinstated three weeks after it was suspended, according to a joint statement issued by the company and the industry watchdog.

“The RSPO today reinstated Nestle’s membership following the submission of its time-bound action plan to achieve 100 percent RSPO certified sustainable palm oil by 2023,” said the statement, adding that the Swiss food group’s certificates and membership status will be reinstated effective Monday.

“Nestle has pledged to step up their efforts in working actively on solutions within the RSPO system ... It’s with this in mind that we are welcoming Nestle back to the roundtable.”

Nestle’s membership was suspended on June 27 as it failed to submit a report detailing how it would ensure the use of certified sustainable palm oil.

The RSPO had said then that members are required each year to specify their actions taken over the previous 12 months and plans for the coming year and longer term on how they will produce or buy certified sustainable palm oil in a report.

Palm oil, largely produced in Southeast Asia, is used widely in everything from cooking oil and soap to chocolates. The industry has come under scrutiny in recent years, as it has been blamed for deforestation and forest fires that cause haze across much of Southeast Asia.

The RSPO is a body of palm producers, consumer companies, and activist groups that provides sustainability certificates for the industry. Certification of environmentally sound behavior is required by some major palm buyers in the West, including major food and candy makers such as Nestle, Unilever and Mars.

Reporting by Emily Chow; Editing by Tom Hogue