Thursday, 17 January 2019

"Banning palm oil products is not the best answer"

Last year, the Iceland supermarket banned the use of any palm oil in its products - and then had its own advertisement banned:
Top of the month: Iceland's Rang-tan is a lesson in effective social cause marketing | PR Week

And the main producers were clearly not happy at the time:

Since then, other supermarkets have adopted complete bans:
Although there's been a lot of ensuing debate about how effective this really can be:

Tesco's have decided not to follow suit:

As have the 'more ethical' Waitrose:

Below is from correspondence received by this blog from Waitrose Customer Service from the last two months - and is published with their permission:

15 November 2018 

At Waitrose & Partners we source our ingredients in the most sustainable and ethical way possible and have considered our approach to palm oil carefully. We believe we can have the biggest influence by being part of the solution to help transform the palm oil industry around the world.
All our palm oil sourcing is certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) either via physically certified sustainable palm oil or, where this isn't possible, via RSPO credits. Our high ranking in the World Wide Fund for Nature’s “Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard” for responsible sourcing is a testament to that commitment.

Through this approach, and our ongoing collaboration with the RSPO, NGOs, other retailers, and businesses across the oil palm supply chain, we can incentivise palm oil producers to adopt higher ethical and sustainability standards – helping to drive improvements in employment practices that protect people, and in the way that land is managed that protect forests and biodiversity, in the countries and places where oil palm is grown.

The global palm oil industry is extremely complex and requires a collaborative approach to help make it sustainable. 

Waitrose & Partners is committed to playing our part, and offering continued support to our suppliers and others in order to achieve this goal.

For wider views on this complex issue, please review the below articles from the WWF, RSPO, and IUCN:


Kind regards
Waitrose & Partners Customer Care

13 December 2018 

To explain further: a ban on palm oil could diminish efforts to produce palm oil sustainably and shift biodiversity impacts to regions where other oils such as coconut, soy, rapeseed and sunflower are produced. In fact, the impact of using alternative vegetable oils could be even greater due to the fact that, unlike proposed alternatives, palm oil produces up to nine times more oil per unit area, and much of the additional land needed would also be in regions with tropical forest.

With demand for vegetable oils anticipated to grow from the current 165 million tonnes (now) to 310 million tonnes by 2050, it's hugely important that we adopt an approach that will help stop the impact of oil palm plantations in the long term, not just the short term. This is why we strongly believe that making palm oil sourcing more sustainable is the best answer, as this will help us implement change across the whole industry and prevent further, potentially even greater, impacts to biodiversity should this problem be displaced elsewhere and industry reform not be achieved.

This is a view that is widely supported by the retail industry, manufacturers, governments and respected NGOs that have been active in the palm oil debate for many years. Please find some pertinent examples of this support for sustainable palm oil below for further information:


Regarding the RSPO, we believe that it is an incredibly important organisation, predominantly for its work in bringing together stakeholders across the global supply chain, including major NGOs, to discuss and kickstart initiatives to transform the oil palm industry. In terms of new developments, you may have seen and will hopefully be encouraged that the RSPO general assembly recently adopted a new set of principles and criteria that stipulates zero deforestation, no new development on peat and improved worker rights.

Along with other retailers, businesses and NGOs, we believe this development will lead to further improvements in the production of palm oil - an industry-wide transformation that we can help achieve by continuing to properly incentivise suppliers to ensure they adopt higher sustainability and ethical practices, which protect people, forests, and biodiversity.

We're fully committed to being part of the solution to this problem. Again, we don't think banning palm oil products is the best answer. Instead, we believe we need to ensure it is being produced in the most sustainable way possible across the whole industry. This is the goal that we will continue to work tirelessly with others in helping to achieve it. We thank you for your interest in these developments.

Kind regards

Waitrose & Partners Customer Care


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