A snapshot of sustainable palm oil in Europe

WWF's assessment of major European companies reveals that while several companies that purchase palm oil are on the right track, most have yet to capitalize on the availability of certified sustainable palm oil to ramp up their sustainability practices.

This leaves substantial market opportunities still untapped – and threatened rainforests still at risk.

Palm oil leadership by 10 companies

WWF commends the efforts of the 10 companies that have shown leadership in committing to and sourcing certified sustainable palm oil: Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Migros, Young’s/Findus, Unilever, Cadbury, The Body Shop, L’Oreal, Asda and Coop Switzerland.

In general these top 10 companies have made progress across the criteria assessed by WWF, which include being active members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), having sustainable palm oil policies, commitments and action plans, and starting to use certified sustainable palm oil.

In many cases, these companies have scored well because they have:
  • contributed to the RSPO process for several years, like Cadbury, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Migros and Unilever
  • put in place sustainable palm oil policies, like Sainsbury’s, Young’s/Findus and Cadbury
  • set up internal systems to control their use of palm oil, like Cadbury and Unilever
  • started motivating and in some cases working with their suppliers before certified sustainable palm oil was available, like Sainsbury’s
Most companies in this top group have also started to use certified sustainable palm oil now that it is available. For some, such as Unilever, this has been in relatively large volumes and for others, like Marks & Spencer, it represents a high proportion of the company’s total palm oil use.

However, in most cases, certified sustainable palm oil is still being used in only very small quantities. WWF believes that these companies will need to move faster if they are to achieve the target of 100% use of certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 or earlier.

Good policies, action still needed

Many companies in the second tier, like United Biscuits, Henkel and Tesco, have many of the right policies and practices in place, although they have only just begun to take action on sustainable palm oil.

Some companies in this grouping have started to use some certified sustainable palm oil. Some others may have put policies and systems in place, but often have yet to start buying certified sustainable palm oil.

These companies should score much better in future Scorecards after they have started to purchase certified sustainable palm oil, hence the need for them to follow up with tangible actions.

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 certified sustainable palm oil procurement targets and share time-bound action plans to achieve these targets.

Therefore, companies that join the RSPO but take no action will no longer be able to use membership as a proxy for sustainability.

Many companies showing little or no interest

A third tier of companies encompasses businesses which have shown only a little interest in sustainable palm oil issues, while companies in a fourth grouping have shown no interest, or have declined or ignored WWF’s request for information on their palm oil policies and actions.
 / ©: Tantyo Bangung - WWF Canon
Burning in plantations and extensive land clearing. Palm oil trees in the smoke from forests fires.Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© Tantyo Bangung - WWF Canon
Bornean orang-utan, Sarawak (Borneo), Malaysia. / ©: Michel TERRETTAZ / WWF-Canon
Bornean orang-utan, Sarawak (Borneo), Malaysia.
© Michel TERRETTAZ / WWF-Canon

Overall, the Scorecard results show that the sector as a whole still has a long journey ahead before sustainable palm oil sourcing becomes the norm.

And yet, many companies appear to be moving in the right direction in terms of their intention to use certified sustinable palm oil. WWF hopes that this is an indication of where palm oil buying practices may be headed in the future, and will monitor the trends with future versions of the Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard.

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