UK Commitment for Sustainable Palm Oil Falls Short of Expectations



Posted on 04 February 2013  | 
The UK government and a group of UK businesses have pledged to phase out the use of unsustainable palm oil by 2015, while critics claim that this commitment lacks strength.

While WWF has signed to the pledge and has acknowledged that the move is significant, it argues that this action needs to go further given the urgency related to the impact of irresponsible palm oil production on natural habitats. Along with the British Retail Consortium (BRC), WWF has warned that the statement may be too weak to drive a significant change in the palm oil supply chain.

According to the BRC, many of its members have already made commitments that are more ambitious than the UK government’s pledge, with some supermarkets such as The Cooperative, Waitrose, M&S and Sainsbury's already at, or very close to, using 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-certified palm oil ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Another limitation of the commitment is that it does not oblige signatories to adhere to the exact standards set by the RSPO. Meanwhile, some signatories have actually refused to agree to a firm 2015 target date for phasing out unsustainable palm oil.

Adam Harrison of WWF International warned that the statement did not go far enough. "The urgency of the problem needs an equally urgent response," he said. "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."

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.

According to Eurostat, the UK imported 397,000 metric tonnes of palm oil and 53,000 metric tonnes of palm kernel oil in 2011. However, Defra (the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) estimates that only 24% of this was sourced from sustainably certified plantations.

UK Food and Drink Federation, Business Green, The Guardian, WWF-UK
United Kingdom
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