Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia – Companies in Europe, Australia and Japan 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. “There are options available for almost any company to buy certified sustainable palm oil. Yet the WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard shows that only half of the palm oil used by the companies we assessed 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.
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.
“The leading companies in the Scorecard demonstrate that it is possible to source certified sustainable palm oil to cover most or all of their palm oil usage, so there are no excuses for all companies not to take action now,” says Harrison. “But 2015 is just around the corner — all companies, even some of the top performers, need to move faster. Only then can we ensure that the momentum gained by the RSPO is not lost and avoid the negative impacts of irresponsible oil palm plantations on forests, wildlife and communities.”
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.
(see http://bit.ly/vwyuOF for a breakdown of company performance according to size of palm oil volumes used)
Very disappointingly, 17 of the 43 retailers and 15 of the 89 manufacturers assessed 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.
Progress is still too slow
The supply of certified sustainable palm has grown dramatically since WWF released its first Scorecard in 2009, and now stands at 5 million tonnes (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.
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.
“WWF wants far more openness in this industry. Unless there is greater transparency, oil palm growers will remain unwilling to commit to certification,” said Harrison. “If we want growers to act responsibly, buyers of palm oil need to show what their future demand for certified sustainable palm oil is going to be.”
Notes to Editors
The WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 is available for download at
Photos illustrating the content for the report are available here https://photos.panda.org/gpn/external?albumId=4198
An application suitable for mobile devices, which shows company scores according to country, is available at http://bit.ly/tvMstr
High-resolution images to illustrate the contents of this story are available upon request
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.
Additional recommendations from WWF
1. Join the RSPO as an active member
2. Make a commitment to source 100 per cent RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015 at the very latest
3. Be transparent on their use of palm oil
4. Start using certified sustainable palm oil immediately
5. Start investing in traceable supply chains of certified sustainable palm oil
6. For retailers, go beyond “own brand commitments”
7. Raise awareness of the RSPO and certified sustainable palm oil globally
1. Do your shopping from companies that have committed to certified sustainable palm oil (access mobile application at http://bit.ly/tvMstr)
2. Look for the RSPO trademark on products
3. Ask your retailer to source certified sustainable palm oil products for everything they sell – not just their own brands.
4. Ask the manufacturers of the products you use to source certified sustainable palm oil
5. Contact WWF to find out about other ways you can get involved with our work (see list of WWF offices here >)
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 makes a major contribution to greenhouse gas emissions caused by human activity.
For further information contact
Chris Chaplin, WWF International [email protected], +65 9826 3802
Carrie Svingen, WWF International, [email protected], +49 (0) 151 188 548 33
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
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