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Manufacturers moving steadily towards sustainable palm oil - WWF

By Oliver Nieburg , 25-Nov-2011

WWF said wildlife was under threat as forests were cleared for palm oil production. Photo credit:WWF
WWF said wildlife was under threat as forests were cleared for palm oil production. Photo credit:WWF

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has found that food manufacturers are making progress towards ecologically friendly palm oil practices.

The WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011 measured the performance of 132 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers to see if they were committed to Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil-certified (RSPO) sustainable palm oil and open about their usage.

OF the 88 food manufacturers assessed in Europe and Asia-Pacific, most progress since they were last assessed in 2009 and the vast majority were committed to 100% RSPO by 2015

Those dealing in large volumes of palm oil, such as Nestle and Unilever scored well and major companies, such as Cadbury and Premier Foods also scored highly.

Among the major companies to receive low scores were UK-based Northern Foods and Italian chocolatier Ferrero with scores of 3.5 and 4.5 out of 9 respectively.

Clearing forests

Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from oil palm trees grown only in the tropics that has applications in many food stuffs including biscuits, breakfast cereals, and snacks.

WWF has said that clearing tropical forests for oil palm production can damage wildlife, communities and the environment.

It expects palm oil consumption to grow globally from about 50m tonnes in 2011 to around 77m tonnes in 2050.

RSPO requires members not to clear primary forest or any land that is important for wildlife and communities.

United Biscuits

One of those to achieve top marks was UK biscuit manufacturer United Biscuits.

Simon Roulston, fats and oils manager for United Biscuits told BakeryAndSnacks.com about some of the challenges companies face moving towards 100% certified palm oil.

“Companies are sometimes falling into the trap that they believe that if their supplier is certified, then they are too. In fact, in order to make claims that your own company supplies sustainable oil, you also need to go through an RSPO audit process to verify your claims,” he said.

“Many end manufacturers are not yet using the oil in their processes or have not pledged to use it. This will restrict availability. As demand increases in regions like Europe, so supply will become more freely available. ” he continued.

According to Roulston, segregated Palm oil, some Palm fractions and Palm Kernel oil were all available in Europe.

“Many bakery supply companies say they simply require an increased demand in order to switch their supply. By engaging with a supplier, it is possible to influence their sourcing decisions and collectively we will be able to make the switch," he said.

United Biscuits has set a target to source 100% segregated CSPO by 2012. Currently around 70% is certified.

Transparency

WWF said there was a “worrying lack of openness from the industry” on the amount of palm oil it is using.

Only 88 companies assessed disclosed to WWF how much palm oil they are using annually. A further 21 agreed to be placed within published size categories. Twenty-three would not reveal palm oil volumes.

Manufacturers were more transparent than retailers.

Sixty-six of the 88 manufacturers scored disclosed palm volumes. A further 14 put themselves in a size category.

WWF wants companies to source 100% of RSPO-certified palm oil by 2015.

It said companies should set annual milestones to move toward the 2015 target.

Highlights: (out of 9)

9 - Allied Bakeries, Burton’s Foods, Cadbury-Kraft (UK), Premier Foods, Warburtons, United Biscuits

8 - Nestle, Unilever, Royal FrieslandCampina

7.5 - Danone, LU

7 - Arla Foods, AAK

4.5 - Ferrero 4.5

3.5 - Northern Foods

To see the full report click here .

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