Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia – 25 UK-based companies are amongst manyin Europe, Australia and Japan that are buying more certified sustainable palm oil than ever before, but urgent action is still needed to avoid the irreversible loss of tropical forests, according to WWF’s latest assessment of the industry that buys palm oil.
“It’s never been easier for companies to be responsible about the palm oil they use,” said Adam Harrison, Senior Policy Officer for WWF UK and WWF’s representative on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Executive Board. “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.”
The relatively good performance of most of the UK companies scored shows that there are options available for almost any company to buy certified sustainable palm oil. But overall the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard shows that less than half of the palm oil used by all the companies scored is sustainable. So it is clear that some manufacturers and retailers have fallen behind on their commitments to 100 per cent sustainable palm oil, while others haven’t even started at all.
WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 - an update of the first scorecard published two years ago - measures over 130 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers by looking at their commitment to, and use of, palm oil certified to the internationally recognised standards of the RSPO.
Of the companies scored, WWF believes that many are making commendable progress to increase their use of sustainable palm oil and to reduce their impact on deforestation. Most of the companies scored in both 2009 and 2011 have taken some strides forward, showing how the use of sustainable palm oil is slowly becoming more mainstream.
A case in point is the UK where it has been estimated that almost a quarter of the palm oil used in the food and personal care sectors is now certified to the RSPO standard. This is reflected in the relatively good performance of the UK companies scored. All 25 are members of the RSPO, all have made a public commitment to only use certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier, all are already using at least some and all but two told WWF how much palm oil they are using. But even so the average use of CSPO amongst the UK companies scored is still only 44% - disappointing for a group of companies that could otherwise be seen as leaders amongst palm oil users.
Very disappointingly, 17 of the 43 retailers and 15 of the 89 manufacturers assessed in the full scorecard scored at three or below, showing that still too many companies are taking little or no responsibility for the negative impact of their palm oil use on forests, species and people. Whilst there were no UK companies at the very bottom of the table there are some that need to improve their performance.
“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,” says Harrison.
The supply of certified sustainable palm has grown dramatically as more and more growers have started to get certified showing that it is possible to produce palm oil without unacceptable damage to nature. Five million tonnes of certified palm oil is now produced (10 per cent of global palm oil production). Encouraging as this is, only about half of all the sustainable palm oil produced is being sold. This mirrors the situation in 2009, which is why WWF is renewing its call to companies to take their responsibilities far more seriously and far more urgently. Unless growers know that there is a market for their sustainable palm oil there is a danger that they will stop producing more. That could have devastating consequences for the tropical forests of the world and the wildlife and people that depend on them.
Notes to Editors
Palm oil is a highly versatile vegetable oil derived from very productive oil palm trees grown only in the tropics. Consumption of the oil is increasing globally and is set to grow from 50 million tonnes a year now to at least 77 million tonnes in 2050. Clearing tropical forests for oil palm production can be very damaging to wildlife, communities and the wider environment – not least because deforestation is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Released at the 9th Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, the Scorecard, which assesses both RSPO members and non members, also shows that 87 of the 132 companies (i.e. 66 per cent) surveyed have committed to sourcing 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier, an encouraging sign that could spur further market development. However, nearly half of the retailers and more than a fifth of manufacturers scored very poorly on taking responsibility for the impacts of their palm oil sourcing.
Leading companies, large and small, show the way
The Scorecard shows that it is possible for companies to make a strong commitment to the RSPO and sustainable palm oil - no matter how much palm oil they use. Even companies dealing in very large volumes of palm oil, such as Nestlé and Unilever, which each scored eight out of a possible nine points, demonstrate they can act responsibly.
Other major companies handling smaller but still substantial volumes of certified sustainable palm oil, namely IKEA, Royal FrieslandCampina and United Biscuits, scored well with eight or more points. Of the companies sourcing mid-range volumes of palm oil, manufacturers like Burton's, Cadbury, Premier and Remia and retailers such as ASDA, Carrefour, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Tesco have also done well.
Smaller operators, such as the manufacturers Allied Bakeries, Brioche Pasquier Cerqueux, Findus, Ginsters, Göteborgs Kex, Harry's, Henkel, H J Heinz, Karl Fazer, Nutrition et Santé, Oriflame Cosmetics, Santa Maria, and St Hubert, and the retailers Coop Switzerland, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Royal Ahold and their subsidiary ICA, The Co-operative Group UK and Waitrose, as well as manufacturers using comparatively minor amounts of palm oil such as Cloetta, Devineau / Bougies La Française, DSM Nutritional Products, Iglo Group, Iwata Chemical, L’Oréal, Saraya, The Jordans and Ryvita Company, Warburtons, and Yves Rocher, as well as retailers Axfood, the Body Shop and the Boots Group, have also scored above 8 points out of 9.
Lack of transparency hampers progress
Most worrying is an overall lack of transparency about the amount of palm oil that companies use, which WWF believes is a major disincentive to growers of sustainable palm oil to move ahead with further certification. While WWF asked companies to share the amount of palm oil they use, as well as how much of that oil is certified as sustainable, most companies were only willing to disclose a range of usage and too many companies provided no data at all.
The Global Picture
WWF focused the Scorecard on Europe, Australia and Japan, as these represent most of leading markets for sustainable palm oil. However, WWF recognizes that other countries play a key role in the global market for palm oil, including China and India, which together account for 27 per cent of the global palm oil market, Indonesia and Malaysia, where most palm oil is produced, and the US, which imports relatively little palm oil but which is home to many corporations with global influence. Without these countries playing a larger role in the future, sustainable palm oil will remain a niche market and deforestation will continue. WWF calls for all companies assessed whether they were in the Scorecard or not to continue to pave the way for the rest of the market – they should disclose the amount of palm oil they are using, set annual milestones toward their 100 per cent sourcing by 2015 target, and deliver on their commitments early, if possible.
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