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WWF - Response to Government Statement on palm oil

Responding to the publication by Defra of a National Statement on palm oil yesterday 1, WWF-UK said that the move was significant, but given the urgency of the situation relating to the impacts on natural habitats relating to palm oil production, needs to go further.

WWF said that, whilst it is significant that Defra is working on the issue of palm oil and that UK Government Buying Standards now include sustainable palm oil, there was concern that the Statement had been watered down by parts of the palm oil industry. WWF said that the UK Government’s new national statement with industry associations lacks the necessary time bound commitments and only talks about 'working towards' sustainable palm oil by 2015.

WWF said that, given the scale of the threat to the natural world posed by unsustainable palm oil expansion, it is critically important that industry comes together to take meaningful action now. WWF said it would like to see all sectors, and individual companies within each sector, make public commitments to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 and, more importantly, to start buying RSPO certified palm oil immediately.

Adam Harrison, food and agriculture policy officer at WWF-UK, said: “The impacts of irresponsible and unsustainable palm oil expansion to meet growing demand are completely unacceptable in terms of deforestation, damage to wildlife and climate change. The urgency of the problem needs an equally urgent response.

“Whilst we welcome the National Statement as significant, it does not convey clearly enough the need to take action now. The whole UK palm oil industry from traders and processors through to manufacturers needs to match the best actions taken by individual businesses that have already committed to using 100% RSPO certified palm oil and which are, it many cases, well on the way to achieving this commitment ahead of time.”

Data released by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil 2 meeting this week in Singapore show that some UK businesses like supermarkets The Cooperative, Waitrose, M&S and Sainsbury’s are already at or very close to using 100% RSPO certified palm oil and that manufacturers like United Biscuits, Warburton’s and Burton’s food are as well.

“It is a shame the ambition of these companies is not matched by those of the representative bodies of other sectors of the UK palm oil industry in the National Statement.” said Harrison. “We need to work together to transform the whole industry and that is only possible if we all take an active part in finding solutions that work”.

Notes to editors

1. Defra: UK to lead way on sustainable palm oil 30 October 2012 http://www.defra.gov.uk/news/2012/10/30/sustainable-palm-oil/

2. RSPO annual communication of progress report 2011-2012 http://www.rspo.org/en/acop_2011-2012_reports

3. The 10th meeting of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO RT10) is taking place in Singapore 30 October – 1 November http://www.rt10.rspo.org/

For more information:

George Smeeton, Senior Press Officer WWF-UK
Tel: 01483 412 388, Mob: 07917 052 948, email: GSmeeton@wwf.org.uk