Palm oil featured in Iceland's banned Christmas advertising campaign, featuring a Greenpeace video about an orangutan and habitat loss © Courtesy of Iceland
Palm oil featured in Iceland's banned Christmas advertising campaign, featuring a Greenpeace video about an orangutan and habitat loss © Courtesy of Iceland

Iceland struggles with 'no palm oil' pledge

25 January 2019

Iceland has said it is pushing suppliers “hard” to make the manufacturing changes necessary to remove palm oil from its own-brand products.

Iceland announced last year that it would be removing palm oil from its own-brand products by the end of 2018, and so far more than 400 products have had palm oil removed.

Palm oil also featured in the retailer’s banned Christmas advertising campaign, which featured a Greenpeace video about an orangutan and habitat loss that was deemed to breach TV political advertising rules.

The retailer hit the headlines again this week when the BBC discovered palm oil was still listed in the ingredients on 28 own-brand products. Iceland said for some products ingredients had not been updated on its website, while others were part of stock from before its announcement that it decided to run down rather than throw away.

Iceland is also faced with 17 products that have been been rebranded because it will take longer to reformulate them without palm oil, which will return as own-brand products once the oil has been substituted. The retailer said it was pushing suppliers “hard” to make this happen.

A further 15 products will be permanently rebranded because it is not possible to remove palm oil from them.

CIPS said the “unravelling” of supply chains required to make such a change was a challenge.

“The intent from Iceland is a worthy one but unravelling and reformatting supply chains is an incredibly complex and time-consuming activity. Especially for bigger companies with a large range of goods,” said a spokeswoman. 

“However, taking the approach of, ‘We’re all in it together’, and being open and transparent about any difficulties, means that others can learn from one organisation’s mistake and take a longer, harder look at their own supply chains.”

Iceland said: “Removing palm oil represents a huge technical challenge. It is not simply a matter of switching to a substitute ingredient. In many cases, the manufacturer has to change its production equipment and processes, often at considerable cost and this is not something that can be accomplished overnight. In some cases we have been forced to move production to a completely new supplier, increasing both time and costs.”

The retailer made the announcement in April 2018 that palm oil would be eliminated from its own brand products, noting the destruction caused by palm oil production in Indonesia as a reason for the change. It said the change would reduce the demand for palm oil by 500 tonnes per year.

As well as removing palm oil from its own products, Iceland also pledged last year to remove plastic packaging from its own label food by 2023.

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