Companies still not buying enough sustainable palm oil

UK COMPANIES have no more excuses when it comes to sourcing sustainable palm oil, according to a new report by WWF.

The charity has published its second ‘palm oil scorecard’ which tracks the buying performance of 130 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers in relation to palm oil.

25 UK-based companies are amongst many in Europe, Australia and Japan that are buying more certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) than ever before, but urgent action is still needed to avoid the irreversible loss of tropical forests and species like the orang-utan, said WWF.

“It’s never been easier for companies to be responsible about the palm oil they use,” said senior policy officer Adam Harrison. “But we only have a few years left to act – all companies, even some of the top performers, need to move faster.  Only then can we get rid of irresponsible oil palm plantations and end the unacceptable impacts of the industry on forests, wildlife and communities.”

Harrison said the relatively good performance of most of the UK companies scored shows that there are options available for almost any company to buy CSPO. Unilever was singled out for praise given the huge quantities of palm oil it buys, and the relative tonnages of CSPO it is sourcing. Nestlé was given a similar pat on the back, though it still only buys between 25-50% CSPO – it has a commitment for that to reach 100% by 2015.

Overall the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard shows that less than half of the palm oil used by all the companies scored is sustainable. Some manufacturers and retailers have fallen behind on their commitments to source 100% sustainable palm oil, while others haven’t even started at all. Some 17 of the 43 retailers and 15 of the 89 manufacturers assessed in the full scorecard were taking little or no responsibility for the negative impact of their palm oil use.

“The leading companies in the Scorecard demonstrate that it is possible to source certified sustainable palm oil to cover all of their palm oil usage, so there are no excuses for all companies not to take much more action now,” said Harrison.

Companies using substantial volumes of palm oil—more than 100,000 tonnes per year—have generally performed well in the Scorecard, with household names such as Nestlé and Unilever scoring well.

Unilever in particular uses more than 1 million tonnes of palm oil a year, placing them further ahead than any other company in the Scorecard (in terms of the amount of palm oil they use)—and they are the only company at this level using more than 50% CSPO. “These very big users of palm oil are faced with substantial logistical and cost challenges in moving to 100% RSPO-certified palm oil, and they should be acknowledged for what they have achieved so far,” the report concluded.


The December issue of Foodservice Footprint features special features on international agriculture.