Major retailers ranked on sustainable palm oil

| 28th October 2009
Palm oil seeds
The palm oil industry in Indonesia has been linked to illegal deforestation

The palm oil industry in Indonesia has been linked to illegal deforestation

Tesco and Waitrose lagging behind on sustainable sourcing of world's most traded edible oil, found in wide range of everyday products from cakes and cosmetics

The vast majority of European firms are not sourcing palm oil from sustainable sources committed to avoiding deforestation, according to an analysis from WWF.

Europe imports more than 4.7 million tonnes of palm oil every year with more than 50 per cent of all packaged food products sold by supermarkets including the ingredient.

Despite the availability of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) since 2008, only a small percentage of it has been bought.

In response to this slow uptake, WWF has scored major manufacturers and retailers in Europe on their buying policies toward palm oil.

Retailer praise

It praised ten companies, including Sainsburys, Marks & Spencer, Unilever, Cadbury and Asda for instigating sustainable palm oil policies and starting to use CSPO.

However, it named and shamed a second group, including Tesco, Waitrose and United Biscuits for failing to use CSPO.

'Many companies in this group have joined the RSPO but have not taken any action on sourcing sustainable palm oil. This is happening despite new RSPO requirements mandating companies buying palm oil to publicly report CSPO procurement targets and share time-bound action plans to achieve these targets,' concluded the report.

Worst performer

Among the Scorecard's worst performer was Associated British Foods, whose brands include Ryvita and Kingsmill. It was part of a group of companies that showed no interest, declined or ignored requests for information on their palm oil buying policies.

'The growing demand for palm oil is adding to the already severe pressure on remaining rainforest areas of the world,' said WWF senior policy officer for food and agriculture Adam Harrison.

'The top-scoring companies have shown what’s possible, with some buying fairly substantial quantities of CSPO, but now it’s a question of whether the majority will follow.

'If they do, it will transform the market, giving producers the confidence to grow more sustainable palm oil. If they don’t, there will be grave consequences for the environment.'
Useful links
WWF Palm Oil Scorecard

WWF and Monsanto - is GM soy now okay?
Environmental group WWF has faced a barrage of protest for sitting at the table with the likes of Monsanto and Cargill. Has it gone a step too far to appease the multinationals?
EU must act against Cargill says watchdog
US company has too much influence over market and is partly to blame for recent high food prices
World Bank breaks rules in lending to palm oil companies
Campaign groups call for a suspension on lending to palm oil plantation developers after critical internal audit
Sustainable palm oil usage at unsatisfactory levels
Land victory will allow Borneo’s indian tribes to fight palm oil industries, although use of sustainable palm oil sits at a mere one per cent.

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.