Guatemala is the largest exporter of palm oil in the Central America region and the sixth largest producer in the world with 740 million tons produced annually. Concern is growing in the region about the damages caused by the palm oil industry. In Latin America, palm oil production has the potential to expand but it must combine the conservation of natural resources with economic production.
To encourage sustainable consumption and production patterns in the value chain of palm oil the NGO Guateambiente partnered with the palm oil producer Las Palmas S.A with funding from the European Union, through UN Environment. The partnership with the Guatemala based producer aimed to identify environmental impacts through a pilot Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). After successful completion, this pilot project became the first complete life cycle assessment to be undertaken in Guatemala, that included emissions from land use change and palm oil mill effluents. Therefore, identifying a Guatemalan carbon footprint average for palm oil production.
The project revealed some interesting insights:
• Up to 50% of the supply chains carbon footprint came from the manufacturing of fertilizer and pesticides
• Water usage in the irrigation systems was higher, per ton of crude palm oil, than other countries such as Colombia, Indonesia and Malaysia
• Palm oil mill effluents were successfully utilised for electricity generation
• Conservation of mangrove ecosystems provides carbon reduction benefits which can generate potential income by selling carbon credits in international carbon markets
Based on the project and the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) framework an action plan was developed and presented to Oscar Molina, owner of Las Palmas, and the companies environmental management staff.
To raise awareness of the results and showcase the added value of LCA methodologies, two technical workshops were held over two days. More than 60 participants attended from academia, private and public sectors, including Palm Growers Association, Center for Cleaner Production, and the Guatemalan Ministry for the Environment.
Finally, to further disseminate the value of LCA methods a training session was held with 30 national experts and included the national carbon neutral standard working group.