M&S makes palm oil pledge to save forests

Commitment aimed at halting ecological damage done in South-east Asia


Marks & Spencer will commit to paying more for sustainable palm oil across its entire range of products today in an attempt to limit environmental damage in south-east Asia.

In a rolling programme over the next six years, M&S will buy GreenPalm certificates for sustainably produced palm oil equivalent to the amount it uses in almost 1,000 food, beauty and home products. Like other food manufacturers, M&S pours palm oil, the world's cheapest vegetable fat, into a wide variety of food and household products such as biscuits and convenience foods.

By early next year, the retailer said nine products, including 200g packs of oatcakes, a 500g cookie selection and seven types of cooked potatoes, would be covered by the GreenPalm scheme. By 2015, it promised to buy certificates for all relevant products. M&S, which would not disclose the cost of the commitment, is also funding a 120-acre wildlife corridor between plantations in Borneo.

Paul Willgoss, head of food technology, said M&S had been using alternatives to palm oil over the past two years wherever possible, for example using rapeseed oil in fish fingers. "Where palm oil can't be replaced as an ingredient, we will only use certified sustainable palm oil," he said.

"By early 2010 we will have the UK's widest selection of certified sustainable palm oil products, with a range of nine items including cookies, oatcakes and potatoes."

Widely regarded as an environmental disaster, palm oil production has precipitated the destruction of vast swathes of rainforest on the Indonesian and Malaysian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, which has led to the eviction of indigenous tribes and moved orangutans closer to extinction.

Under an initiative launched by Unilever in 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifies producers that abide by a series of environmental rules including a ban on new plantations in virgin forest. However, only one per cent of RSPO oil had been sold by this summer because separating a "clean" supply from more damaging production costs an extra 10 to 20 per cent. Under the ancillary GreenPalm scheme, firms continue using normal supplies while buying certificates for otherwise undervalued RSPO production to reward environmental stewardship.

A Hull-based firm, AAK, auctions the certificates for around £6 a tonne, adding about two per cent to the cost.

M&S, which is likely to use tens of thousands of tonnes annually, said sustainable production was central to its commitment to reduce CO2 emissions linked to deforestation, and hoped its actions would "send a clear signal of demand to the market".

In May, The Independent disclosed the confirmed, or suspected, presence of palm oil in 43 of the UK's 100 best-selling brands, including Flora, Hovis, Kingsmill, KitKat, Dove, Comfort and Persil.

Next week, the wildlife group WWF, which helped found the RSPO, will publish ratings of the palm oil policies of UK food companies in an attempt to raise pressure on them to source supplies sustainably. Sandra Charity, its UK head of forest programmes, described Marks & Spencer's move as "significant". Adam Harrison, senior policy adviser, added: "It is vitally important that all retailers and manufacturers show by their actions that they want to eliminate the negative impacts of our demand for palm oil."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: European Sales Director - Aerospace Cable & Wire

£100000 - £125000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Project Manager

£17100 - £22900 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...

Recruitment Genius: CNC Turner

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral