Waitrose makes sustainable palm oil pledge

Supermarket responds to environmental concerns about its policy


Waitrose is to switch its own-brand foods to "sustainable" palm oil in a move intended to help prevent deforestation, climate change and other problems caused by the world's cheapest vegetable oil.

Setting out a radical new timetable on the controversy, the retailer said it would ensure supplies for 1,000 products were certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) by 2012. In the meantime, it will buy GreenPalm certificates for production, equivalent to its annual usage.

This turns Waitrose from one of the slowest-moving supermarkets on palm oil into one of the fastest. In a league table published by the wildlife charity WWF on 28 October, the supermarket group came a lowly 18th out of 25 UK retailers and manufacturers.

Another company that scored poorly, Britain's biggest baker, Warburtons, is in talks with the WWF about improving its policy. Palm oil – found in a range of foods and household products, including biscuits, chocolate, soap, and shampoo – is associated with human rights abuses and loss of wildlife, including the endangered orang-utan.

It is also a large cause of deforestation, which generates 20 per cent of global climate change emissions. Since The Independent published an investigation into the problems associated with the use of palm oil earlier this year, Nestlé, Mars, Cadbury and Marks & Spencer have announced overhauls of their sourcing.

Waitrose said one-tenth of its own-label range – 1,000 products – contained between 0.001 per cent and 4 per cent palm oil. Wherever possible, it said it was seeking to eliminate or minimise the ingredient, but added that it "continued to be important to the texture" of cakes, biscuits and pastries.

In a tacit admission that its previous policy had been inadequate, Mark Price, Waitrose's managing director, said: "Our mediocre rating in WWF's Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard 2009 has toughened our resolve. We want to be part of the solution, not contributing to the environmental problems caused by the growth in palm oil use."

The supermarket chain will start work on reducing the amount of palm oil used in soap and biscuits, which account for 25 per cent of its usage. David Nussbaum, chief executive of WWF-UK, said the grocer was putting its words into practice. "We hope that this will encourage many other household names to take responsibility for their actions," he said.

Environmentalists are divided about the effectiveness of the RSPO; Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace say it is riddled with loopholes. In an interview last month, the Energy minister, Joan Ruddock, said that despite its shortcomings the scheme represented the best chance of saving the rainforests.

Changing their ways? How the stores score

* Sainsbury's has acted quicker than any other major retailer on palm oil, scoring 26 out of 30 in the WWF rankings, followed by Marks & Spencer on 25.5. Asda scored 21 and Tesco 16. Waitrose scored 8.5.

* Fourteen other British firms scored lower than 15, including Co-op (13), Morrisons (9.5), Lidl (8), Boots (6.5) and Aldi (0). ABF, which makes Kingsmill and Allinson bread, also scored 0.

Suggested Topics
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor