Promoting certified sustainable palm oil | WWF
© Audra Melton / WWF-US

Responsible Purchasing

All companies that use palm products must ensure that their own supply chain is sustainable and free from deforestation and conversion of natural ecosystems. They also have a responsibility and a role to play in supporting a responsible, sustainable industry that is free from deforestation and conversion. Companies need to transition from simply de-risking their own supply chain, towards a pro-environment and pro-people approach.

Meanwhile, consumer advocacy is the best way to instigate long-term change. Brands care about what their customers think — so we need to ask what and where they source from to make sure they commit to certified sustainable palm that doesn’t cause deforestation or conversion, harm wildlife, or negatively impact local communities and indigenous people.

The boycott or substitution of palm oil (or other vegetable oils) does not offer long-term solutions to the challenges we face. Exchanging palm oil with other oils can actually worsen the problems. 

For one, oil palm is by far the highest yielding oil crop. Substitution of palm oil with other oils — such as soybean, rapeseed and sunflower — can therefore require significantly more land to produce the same volume. This could potentially cause greater harm to wildlife, habitats and the environment. 

Secondly, switching from palm to alternative oils is also likely to simply shift demand elsewhere, meaning that overall demand for palm oil does not decrease.

Finally, future demand for palm oil can be met without further forest and ecosystem conversion, notably by sustainably increasing productivity on existing plantations and expanding plantations to degraded land. 

This is why WWF supports and encourages the use of palm oil produced using responsible and sustainable practices. We encourage companies to create, promote and support innovative models of sustainable consumption and production. These actions should allow for multiple outcomes of protection, production and restoration, and can include supporting better land use planning practices; investing in smallholder support programmes; and exploring sustainable landscape approaches that allow for multiple land-uses and include all relevant stakeholders, particularly local communities and smallholders.

Rather than forfeiting leverage and allowing demand to simply shift to other products and markets, we believe it is more productive to work with the palm oil industry — and other vegetable oil sectors — to shift them towards sustainability.

WHAT COMPANIES CAN DO

WWF expects responsible companies to:

  • Join the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and actively contribute to their vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm.

  • Make an ambitious public time-bound commitment to buy only RSPO certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and ideally Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) -verified oil.

  • Increase uptake of RSPO CSPO including transitioning to physical supply chains with segregated (SG) or identity preserved (IP) oil and supporting independent smallholders (IS) through the purchase of IS-Credits.

  • Source only from suppliers that adopt and implement a deforestation- and conversion-free policy.

  • Understand their supply chain, requiring suppliers to have traceability to the palm oil mill and where necessary — to monitor and manage environmental and social risk — the plantation level.

  • Ensure transparency by reporting on palm oil sources and usage, as well as their progress and actions at least annually.

  • Ensure commitments and actions cover the entire corporate group, apply to all countries where the group operates, and cover all the types of palm oil used.

  • Participate in action-oriented initiatives and advocacy, and invest in projects on-the-ground which support a sustainable palm oil industry and include the conservation and restoration of biodiversity at risk from, or impacted by, unsustainable palm oil, and actions that support smallholder farmer sustainability.

  • Support policy action in producer and consumer countries which tackles deforestation and conversion, and creates/enforces legislation requiring legal and sustainable palm oil production.

  • Undertake public communication and outreach on sustainable palm oil.

  • Use the Accountability Framework to ensure adherence to the above.

  • Voice support for WWF’s New Deal for Nature and People. Companies can promote it by communicating relevant commitments and actions they are undertaking in relevant fora and by joining Business for Nature and engaging in its events.

WHAT CONSUMERS CAN DO

WWF encourages consumers to:

  • Support sustainable palm oil and explain to friends, families, and others why this is a better approach than boycotting palm oil.

  • Use the Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard to see how well their favourite retailers, manufacturers, and food service companies are doing on palm oil.

  • Share the scorecard on social media.

  • Contact the brands through their social media channels and ask them to: make commitments, join RSPO, and purchase 100% physical certified sustainable palm oil.

  • Add their voice to WWF’s Voice for the Planet calling for urgent action.

© Chris J Ratcliffe / WWF-UK

PALM OIL BUYERS SCORECARDS

WWF's Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard assesses major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and food service companies from around the world on their performances, actions and commitments toward responsible purchasing of palm oil. Browse all the scorecards here.