Companies make palm oil pledge

27 October 2009

27 October 2009 | Allie Anderson

Nestlé and Marks & Spencer have committed to purchasing palm oil from only certified sources by 2015.

The Swiss confectioner and UK retailer made the guarantee this week in a bid to limit environmental damage such as deforestation caused in the production of the commodity. Friends of the Earth argues deforestation caused by palm oil production is considered the biggest threat to the orang-utan.

Nestlé uses palm kernel oil in dairy and confectionery products and purchases processed palm oil and other oil mixes from a variety of sources. The firm's plan to buy only certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) follows a review of its supply chain.

M&S produces food, beauty and home products using palm oil and the move to convert all its supplies to CSPO by 2015 will affect 1,000 products every year.

Paul Willgoss, head of food technology at M&S, said: "Where palm oil can't be replaced as an ingredient, we will only use CSPO. By early 2010 we will have the UK's widest selection of CSPO products, with a range of nine items including cookies, oatcakes and roast potatoes."

The drive to initiate production and use of sustainable palm oil began in 2002 as an informal cooperation between a small number of stakeholders including Unilever, Sainsbury's, WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and a plantation in Malaysia. The agreement was formalised in 2004 with the formation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The objective of this not-for-profit organisation is to promote the production and use of sustainable palm oil and its membership includes buyers, suppliers, producers and retailers. M&S and Nestlé are the latest members to commit to sourcing sustainable palm oil by 2015, when sufficient supplies are expected to be available.

Indonesia and Malaysia currently produce almost 90 per cent of the world's supply of palm oil, a total of approximately 42 million metric tonnes. Of this, Nestlé uses around 0.7 per cent (320,000 metric tonnes). M&S would not disclose the amount it currently purchases, but a spokeswoman told SM it equates to less than 1 per cent of the UK's usage.

According to a report in the Independent on Saturday, only 1 per cent of RSPO oil had been purchased by this summer because it costs up to 20 per cent more to produce.

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