Brands still too slow to tackle unsustainable palm oil at scale, further contributing to nature crisis

Posted on 30 September 2021

30 September 2021: A new WWF assessment finds that the world’s most influential brands are still failing to demonstrate transformative action to counteract the damage of unsustainable palm oil production on critical natural habitats and the people who depend on them — contributing to the planetary emergency we currently face. With not one single brand achieving full marks in WWF’s latest palm oil scorecard, companies from all sectors and markets of the palm oil industry must urgently demonstrate stronger leadership in creating supply chains that protect forests, ecosystems and local communities.

In this sixth edition of the Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, WWF assesses a total of 227 major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and hospitality companies on their commitments and actions in favour of a sustainable palm oil industry. This is the most global scorecard to date, with companies headquartered across five continents — Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Australia — and encompassing many iconic brands. 

Despite long-standing commitments by global brands to eliminate the destruction of nature from their palm oil supply chains by 2020, the vast majority of companies are still not acting on their promises, scoring an average of 13.2 points out of 24 in WWF’s new scorecard. 

Topping this year’s assessment is Swiss retailer Coop Switzerland, the only company to score more than 22 points out of 24. Rounding out the top five companies are Italian consumer goods manufacturer Ferrero, Swedish furniture giant IKEA, UK retailer John Lewis Partnership, and American multinational manufacturer Mars Inc. 

There is significant room for progress for companies from all parts of the palm oil industry, with the majority failing to establish robust policies and mechanisms that can help to ensure that the palm oil volumes they source are free of deforestation, conversion, and human rights abuse. While seven out of 10 respondent companies have committed to addressing deforestation in their palm oil supply chains, and nine out of 10 to protecting human rights, only a handful apply these commitments to all ecosystems and stakeholders at risk of unsustainable palm oil practices. The scorecard also finds that half of respondent companies are still not sourcing 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil, and only a quarter have systems in place to verify if their suppliers are complying with their sustainability commitments. 

More broadly, over a third of companies WWF approached failed to provide any information on their palm oil usage and sustainability efforts. This is despite growing consumer demand for sustainable products — including in emerging markets — and the considerable reputational risks such a lack of transparency entails. 

WWF’s palm oil scorecard also examines actions companies are taking beyond their own supply chains to support a sustainable palm oil industry. Encouragingly, a little over half of respondent companies are actively participating in sustainability platforms aimed at driving industry-wide transformation. Similarly, four out of 10 companies are investing in projects aimed at supporting real change on the ground in palm oil producing landscapes such as smallholder capacity building and forest protection. After a decade of inaction by many, this is a positive shift that all should take part in and rapidly accelerate.

There is enormous potential for companies to make rapid and meaningful strides towards a sustainable palm oil industry. This year’s scorecard includes four respondents — John Lewis Partnership, Beiersdorf AG, Arla Foods, and the Estée Lauder Companies Inc. — who have rapidly risen in the ranking since the 2020 assessment, setting a commendable example that should motivate others to follow suit. 

Octyanto Bagus Indra Kusuma, WWF Senior Palm Oil Engagement Manager, said: 
“We need healthy forests and natural ecosystems if we are to overcome any of the most pressing global challenges of our time. As users of one of the world’s most popular vegetable oils, companies utilising palm oil have a pivotal role to play in setting our planet on a path to recovery. While this will require companies to do much more than just cleaning up their palm oil supply chains, there are many golden opportunities they can seize to become a part of the solution in driving positive, lasting change in the palm oil industry.”

Shifting to sustainable sourcing practices is immediately achievable, even for companies who are at the beginning of their sustainability journey. This is exemplified by the commendable performance of some companies headquartered in Asia and Africa, where sustainability concerns have to date been low. For instance, Singapore companies Fraser and Neave and Denis Asia Pacific (Ayam Brand), along with South Africa-based Woolworths and South Korean Amorepacific scored more than 13.5 out of 24 points, ranking the highest among African and Asian scorecard respondents. 

“As global leaders gather later this year and in 2022 to determine our planet’s future, WWF expects palm oil buyers — including the world’s most iconic brands — to take their share of responsibility by strengthening their commitments, rapidly accelerating action plans, and stepping up collaboration to scale solutions that can deliver systemic change,” Kusuma concluded.

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For more information:
Scorecard findings, methodology and recommendations are available at:

Details on each company’s performance are also available on the website, as well as filterable data visualisations and tables showing how companies are performing in comparison with others.

Considering the nature and climate crises at hand, WWF’s latest assessment measured how companies are taking basic steps to clean up their own palm oil supply chain, in addition to examining additional actions they are taking to drive large-scale transformation across the entire industry. WWF’s expanded set of expectations and criteria is closely aligned with the core principles of the Accountability Framework initiative, a globally applicable roadmap that offers detailed guidance for commodity buyers to build and scale up ethical supply chains that are free of deforestation and conversion, and respect human rights. 


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