Businesses improve score on palm oil

23rd September 2016

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Agriculture ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Food and drink



More than two thirds of the companies that committed to use 100% certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) by 2015 achieved their target, with British companies performing particularly well, WWF has announced.

The campaign group assessed 137 retailers, manufacturers and food service companies from Europe, Australia, Canada, India, Japan and the US for its fourth palm oil scorecard. Between them, the firms are responsible for around 10% of global palm oil use.

The latest scorecard reveals that retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks and Spencer and the Co-operative sourced 100% of their palm oil from certified sustainable sources, while Morrisons scored 98%.

UK manufacturers also performed well, with Warburton’s, United Biscuits and Premier Foods reaching the 100% target. Young’s reached 99% and R&R Ice Cream 88%.

Emma Keller, agricultural commodities manager at WWF, said: ‘British retailers, manufacturers and food service companies have shown that in less than a decade it is possible to move to sustainable palm oil supply chains.’

Progress made by companies since 2009, when there was very little transparency around corporate use of palm oil, showed how an industry can change and embed sustainability into its business model, she added.

Food service companies scored poorly overall, however, with none ranked as a leader. UK-based Compass Group has committed to sourcing all its palm oil sustainably by 2020, but is yet to source any in this way, while Whitbread did not respond to WWF’s request for information.

Globally, 28 out of the 137 companies approached by WWF for information did not respond. WWF said this lack of transparency and engagement was ‘completely unacceptable’.

Some 56 of the 77 companies that pledged to use only CSPO by 2015 achieved the benchmark. Seven fell short by 50% or more.

Compared with 2013, when WWF last assessed companies on the issue, performance had improved, with 76 companies showing progress, the NGO said. However, progress in 11 companies had stalled and regressed in seven.

Approximately 17% of global palm oil production is now certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. More producers would adopt sustainable practices if demand would be higher, WWF said.

It acknowledged that there were issues with the ‘book and claim’ system of sourcing sustainable palm oil. The trading system allows retailers and manufacturers to purchase a certificate for each tonne of palm oil they buy from a producer certified as sustainable. WWF said the system effectively supported irresponsible producers because it allowed buyers to continue to do business with them.

Some companies, such as Nestlé, have stopped buying certificates and are now relying solely on their own sourcing guidelines, while other brands are investing in schemes to help smallholders improve practices and obtain certification. However, other companies are using issues over book and claim certificates as an excuse not to take action, WWF alleged.

The NGO’s report focuses on what companies’ commitments to source only sustainable palm oil mean in practice. Not all commitments are global, for example, with L’Oréal’s covering France and Tesco’s only applicable in the UK.

In addition, commitments only apply for firms’ own products, not those produced for others. In most cases, retailers are reluctant to share their wider responsibility, with only Co-op Sweden and Rema in Denmark applying the CSPO standard to the other brands they sell. In many cases, it was impossible to discover what companies’ targets really cover, WWF said.

However, some consumer goods manufacturers have committed to using CSPO for all their customers’ products as well as their own brands. WWF praised United Biscuits for committing to this even before it knew whether its customers wanted CSPO or not. ‘This is the sort of proactive leadership that we need much more of. If more manufacturers made the shift to CSPO, there would be even less excuse for retailers not to as well,’ the report stated.


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