Supermarket Chains Ecology Question 11

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Does the brand have an effective policy to increase the use of sustainable palm oil in order to stop e.g. the destruction of tropical forest for palm oil plantations?

Dutch version: Heeft het merk effectief beleid om het gebruik van duurzame palmolie te vergroten om zo de vernietiging van regenwouden voor palmolieplantages tegen te gaan?

German version: Setzt der Markenhersteller effektive Maßnahmen um, um ausschließlich nachhaltiges Palmöl für alle Eigenmarken-Produkte zu verarbeiten?


Palm oil is used in about 50% of all packaged food products in supermarkets today and used in a wide range of foods (e.g. margarine, ice cream) and non-food products (e.g. shampoos to make them more ‘creamy’). Oil palms are highly efficient producers of high-quality, versatile oils. But they only grow in the tropics, where their cultivation can have negative impacts on people and the environment [1].

These impacts include forest clearing, habitat loss of threatened and endangered species, poor air quality from burning forests and peat lands, and disregard for the rights and interests of local communities. Palm oil plantations are now the leading cause of rainforest destruction in Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition, converting forests to plantations contributes to climate change, since 20% of all human-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are caused by deforestation.

In response to the urgent global call for sustainably produced palm oil on the mainstream level, the Multi Stakeholder Initiative called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in 2004 with the objective promoting the growth and use of sustainable oil palm products through global standards and engagement of stakeholders. The first sustainable palm oil plantations were certified in 2008.

One of the key players in the RSPO is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Their call to action towards companies is:

- Become an active member of the RSPO;
- put in place policies and systems to control where palm oil is sourced from, make public commitments for the use of 100% certified palm oil by 2015 at the latest;
- and begin purchasing CSPO immediately [2].

This is the benchmark used for the question, where Unilever and several other European companies already comply and sets the example (see page 4 of the WWF document).


- There exist also other certifications as listed by Fairfood which are eligible for this question.

- There are several ways of buying sustainable Palm Oil, all are eligible to this question. Click [here] for background information.

Ranking guidelines


- When brands (companies) realize a share of at least 70% mass-balance and / or segregated RSPO-certified palm oil for its entire store brand product range (food and non-food).

- When brands (companies) source more sustainable palm oil (i.e. RSPO-certified) for its entire store brand product range (food and non-food) only. In doing so, for the time being, also mass-balance certified palm oil is considered eligible for a positive assessment.

- When brands (companies) clearly don't use palm oil at all.

A ‘No’ is applicable when:

  • The brand (owner) explicitly states not to [...].

A ‘?’ is applicable when:

  • The brand (owner) doesn't communicate any information on a sustainable palm oil policy on its website.
  • The brand (owner) aims to source more sustainable palm oil, but doesn't provide any clear results of its policy measures (which need to meet our requirement for a Yes).

Further Resources

- WWF 1 2

- WWF 2015 assessment for the Netherlands

- WWF 2015 assessment for Germany

- WWF 2016 assessment on global level


- CBI - Product Factsheet: Palm Oil in Europe 1