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Iceland says no to palm oil

Iceland plans to be the UK’s first major supermarket to remove palm oil from its own-brand food
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Iceland says no to palm oil

Iceland has announced it will stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own-label food by the end of 2018.

The project is already underway, with palm oil successfully removed from 50% of Iceland’s own-label range. Prior to work beginning on this initiative palm oil was present in 130 lines, accounting for approximately 10% of the supermarket’s own-label food.

The no palm oil pledge is that by the end of 2018, 100% of Iceland’s own-label food lines will contain no palm oil, reducing demand for palm oil by more than 500 tonnes per year. The response from Iceland’s own-label suppliers to the no palm oil campaign has been ‘incredibly enthusiastic’.

Iceland is also the first major retailer in the world to pledge to remove plastic packaging from its own label-food by 2023, and was the first UK supermarket to remove artificial flavours and colours from its own-label food.

Palm oil alternatives

There are a number of alternatives to palm oil, including sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and butter, which Iceland will select according to individual product requirements.

This shift away from palm oil has been made possible by a significant investment of £5 million from Iceland, which will mean consumers can make this choice to support the planet with zero or minimal impact on the cost of the food they buy.

‘Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’. We don’t believe there is such a thing as guaranteed ‘sustainable’ palm oil available in the mass market, so we are giving consumers a choice to say no to palm for the first time.

‘Having recently been to Indonesia and seen the environmental devastation caused by expanding palm oil production first hand, I feel passionately about the importance of raising awareness of this issue – and I know many British consumers share my concern and want to have a real choice about what they buy. This journey has shown me that, currently, no major supermarket or food manufacturer can substantiate any claim that the palm oil they use is truly sustainable, as the damage being caused to the global environment and communities in South East Asia is just too extensive.’

Managing director of Iceland

The problem with palm oil

Deforestation to produce commodities including palm oil shows no sign of slowing down. Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) figures state that around 24 million hectares of Indonesia’s rainforest were destroyed between 1990 and 2015 – an area almost the size of the UK.

‘Iceland has concluded that removing palm oil is the only way it can offer its customers a guarantee that its products do not contain palm oil from forest destruction. This decision is a direct response to the palm oil industry’s failure to clean up its act.

‘As global temperatures rise from burning forests, and populations of endangered species continue to dwindle, companies using agricultural commodities like palm oil will come under increasing pressure to clean up their supply chains. Many of the biggest consumer companies in the world have promised to end their role in deforestation by 2020. Time is running out not just for these household brands but for the wildlife, the climate and everyone who depends on healthy forests for their survival.’

Executive director of Greenpeace UK

The Indonesian Ministry of Forestry indicates 2.7 million hectares of deforestation between 2012 and 2015 – that’s equivalent to a football pitch every 25 seconds.

In 2010, members of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) pledged to do their bit to protect forests and limit climate change, with a clear commitment to clean up global commodity supply chains by 2020. Yet with less than two years to go before the deadline, Greenpeace found little progress had been made.

Pressure from Greenpeace

At the start of 2018, Greenpeace challenged 16 leading members of the CGF to demonstrate progress by disclosing the mills that produced their palm oil, and the names of the producer groups that controlled those mills. Publishing mill data would show whether brands had companies involved in forest destruction in their supply chains – a vital first real step towards eliminating it.

Under pressure from Greenpeace and other NGOs, 11 brands have now made steps towards transparency. General Mills, Mars, Mondelēz, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever and ColgatePalmolive published in time for Greenpeace’s latest report, Moment of Truth. Ferrero, PepsiCo and PZ Cussons published shortly afterwards.

The others – Hershey, Kellogg’s, Kraft Heinz, Johnson & Johnson and Smucker’s – have so far failed to take even this basic step.

The next step would be for brands to remove suppliers, producers and traders known to be destroying rainforest from their supply chains, and then to take responsibility for investigating the remaining producer groups to identify any that are clearing rainforests or peatlands, or exploiting workers or local communities.

Click here to find out more about the brands failing to act on palm oil.

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