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Big brands and palm oil

Major brands using palm oil still contributing to nature crisis, finds WWF
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Big brands and palm oil

WWF’s 2021 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard reveals that some of the world’s most influential brands are still failing to tackle the deforestation and damage to critical natural habitats caused by unsustainable palm oil production.

The sixth edition of the scorecard, the most far-reaching to date, examines 227 major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and hospitality companies across the globe on their commitments and actions to create a sustainable palm oil industry. 

In the UK, the John Lewis Partnership scored highest and is ‘leading the way’ on sustainable palm oil, while Co-operative Group UK, Unilever, Tesco and Saputo Dairy UK are described as ‘well on the path’.

The John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose, alongside global brands Arla Foods and the Estée Lauder Companies, have jumped from the middle to the top category in just a year, with John Lewis achieving fourth place globally.

Not acting on palm oil promises

At the other end of the scale, 11 UK companies, including healthcare giant Glaxo SmithKline and the Wetherspoons pub chain, failed to provide any information on their palm oil usage and sustainability efforts. Globally a third of companies failed to respond. 

‘A few companies have made impressive strides to eliminate unsustainable palm oil from their businesses to protect nature. They have shown their competitors that it can be done.  

‘However, despite many global brands making long-standing commitments to eliminate the destruction of nature from their palm oil supply chains by 2020, the vast majority are still not acting on their promises. We won’t forget the companies that don’t step up – with so much at stake, there is no room for inaction or half measures.’

Executive director of advocacy and campaigns at WWF

‘Room for progress’ on palm oil

WWF’s new scorecard highlights significant room for progress for companies from all parts of the palm oil industry and in all countries.

This year, UK companies scored an average of 14.4 out of 24, slightly higher than the international average of 13.2 points and on par with the European average of 14.1.  

Most scorecard companies have failed to establish robust policies and mechanisms to ensure that the palm oil they source is free of deforestation, conversion and human rights abuse.

While seven out 10 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 the people most at risk of unsustainable palm oil production.

Sustainable palm oil

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 check if their suppliers are meeting their sustainability commitments.

WWF’s palm oil scorecard also examines actions companies are taking beyond their own supply chains to support a sustainable palm oil industry.

Encouragingly, just over half of companies are actively participating in sustainability platforms, including the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition (POTC) or the CGF Forest Positive Coalition, to drive industry-wide transformation.

Four out of 10 companies are investing in projects aimed at supporting real change on the ground in palm oil producing landscapes such as building the capacity of smallholders and forest protection.

After a decade of inaction by many, this is a positive shift that all companies should adopt as quickly as possible.

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