The palm oil scandal: Boots and Waitrose named and shamed

Retailers complicit in environmental damage caused by industry, World Wide Fund for Nature says

A A A

Most British manufacturers and retailers including Boots, Morrisons and Waitrose have done little to limit the environmental damage done by the production of the world's cheapest vegetable oil, according to research published today.

In a survey of leading European food and household firms, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said that only Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and a handful of other companies had made substantial progress towards sourcing sustainable palm oil.

Continental retailers came out worst in the survey of 59 firms, with many French, German and Dutch chains making no effort to prevent the huge problems caused by the oil's production.

Palm oil is found in chocolate, biscuits, cereals, soap, shampoo and dozens of other products, but is also widely used as a bio-fuel for cars and power stations. While providing much needed income for developing countries, it has led to severe deforestation, human rights abuses and loss of endangered wildlife in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Orangutans, the arboreal great apes now restricted to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, are threatened with extinction because of the loss of their habitats. Deforestation – of which palm oil is the biggest cause in Indonesia and Malaysia – also generates 20 per cent of global climate change emissions.

The WWF disclosed that 40 of the 59 companies had not bought any oil certified sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (Rspo) – which sets environmental standards for the £16bn-a-year industry, the most important of which is a ban on planting new oil palms in virgin forests.

Of 25 UK companies, 14 had not bought any Rspo oil – Aldi, Associated British Foods, Croda international, Boots, Warburtons, Britannia Food Ingredients, Waitrose, Morrisons, Jordans Ryvita, Northern Foods, Reckitt Benckiser, Co-op, Premier Foods and Tesco. Out of a maximum of 29 points, WWF scored them between 0 and 16.

However, seven British firms were among the best 10 performers Europe-wide, including Sainsbury's, Marks and Spencer and Cadbury. Among foreign companies, Nestlé, ranked mid-table, this week committed to switching to 100 per cent Rspo oil by 2015.

The WWF said it hoped the naming and shaming would raise awareness of palm oil's environmental damage and encourage companies to act. Presently, companies have bought only 19 per cent of the 1.3m tonnes of certified oil.

The WWF believes palm oil will grow in importance in coming years, because production is forecast to rise by up to 10 per cent annually and the only place palm oil can be grown is in the tropics, home to the world's great rainforests.

"The top-scoring companies have shown what's possible, with some buying substantial quantities of certified oil, but now it's a question of whether the majority will follow," said Adam Harrison, WWF's senior policy officer for food and agriculture. "If they do, it will transform the market, giving producers the confidence to grow more sustainable palm oil. If they don't, there will be grave consequences for the environment."

Waitrose said it recognised the importance of the issue and expected to make progress in the next 12-18 months, while Morrisons said: "We are working with our suppliers to ensure palm oil used as an ingredient in our own label products comes from sustainable sources."

Lidl said it was working towards securing a sustainable supply by 2015, while Warburtons said that in addition to joining the Rspo it would take advice from the WWF on sustainable sourcing. Boots said it used only a small amount of derivatives that were not commercially available, "hence our score in this report which we do not feel reflects our commitment to this subject".

Justin King, chief executive of Sainsbury's, which sources sustainable oil for its fish, biscuits and soap, said: "Much more work now needs to be done, and it is vital that other retailers and food manufacturers follow our lead to ensure that the rainforests are preserved for future generations."

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

* Established in 2003, the RSPO aims to stop environmental damage from palm oil. But not enough companies are paying the extra 10 to 20 per cent per tonne for this greener supply.

* By mid-2009, certified plantations were able to produce 1.75 million tons – one third of the EU's palm oil use. By this month, only 200,000 tonnes had been traded – 5 per cent of Europe's annual consumption.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick