Certified palm oil imports increase

18th December 2014

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Kirsty Budge

Businesses are increasingly importing physical palm oil that is certified rather than simply buying certificates to cover their use of palm oil, according to latest data from Defra.

The environment department published its second annual report on progress towards the UK target to source 100% of palm oil from RSPO certified suppliers.

The data refers to two different RSPO-certified supply chain models; green palm certificates, under which companies can buy certificates from suppliers of certified palm oil; and “segregated and mass balance certified sustainable palm oil”, which is a mix of palm oil from certified and non-certified sources, but proportions of each are measured.

Defra’s figures show a steadily increasing trend in imports of segregated and mass balance palm oil, while palm oil purchased through certificates has remained almost level since 2009.

In addition, the amount of certified palm oil increased as a proportion of total palm oil imports. Certified imports now account for 55% or 71%, depending on what baseline data is used, the report states.

This is a significant increase from 2009, when certified imports made up 24% of total palm oil brought into the UK.

Defra has also published progress statements from each organisation that signed up to the 2015 target. This highlights work done by organisations to raise awareness among its members on how to source sustainable palm oil. For example, the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums has this year produced a policy statement, an awareness campaign and procurement guidelines for members.

The report also highlights barriers some sectors, such as retail, are facing. The British Retail Consortium reported that the cost of joining the RSPO prevents its smaller members from having their supply chain certified.

Adam Harrison, palm oil lead for WWF, said that the trend for palm oil imports was going in the right direction, though it was unlikely the UK would meet its 2015 target. More and more companies were setting targets to use sustainable palm oil, he said.

“We’re close to the tipping point, where it’s no longer unusual or difficult to do,” he said. The trend for companies to move away from buying green certificates was good as it is now much easier to access than previously, he said.

However, Richard George, forests campaigner for Greenpeace, expressed frustration that the UK government was using RSPO certification as its benchmark for success. According to Greenpeace, companies certified to RSPO standards are still destroying rainforest and peatland.

“It’s all well and good saying that we’re reaching this commitment but the commitment itself is inadequate. It has been left in the dust by many big companies like Unilever, Nestlé and Mars,” he said.

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