Only around a third of European palm oil is traceable to the plantation – necessary to ensure zero-deforestation – according to a report prepared for retailers.
The study, carried out by the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition (POTC), found 98% of palm oil supply in Europe was traceable to the mill but only a third to the plantation, with the exception of one importer that reported 75% traceability to the plantation. The figures were based on the 10 largest palm oil importers and traders to POTC members.
The POTC, which represents 11 retailers including Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, said: “All companies have acknowledged that they are not going to achieve their zero deforestation goals by 2020.
“Although some may achieve transparency to mill by then, or have already achieved this, visibility to mill is different to attaining a zero-deforestation supply.”
The report said the definition of visibility to the mill included a 50km radius around the mill, but this was “outdated” as palm could be supplied from up to 250km away.
Three importers were committed to sourcing only Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified oils by 2020 and “several” said they were committed to meeting the RSPO Next standard, which goes beyond basic certification.
Six of the importers had been the subject of negative press reports, though POTC said these were “not always able to provide great insight into the specific actions or inactions of the company in question”.
“In general, companies are not able to provide a guarantee that the palm oil they are supplying is free from deforestation or exploitation unless it is being delivered through an RSPO segregated or identity preserved supply chain,” said the report.
The POTC said feedback from suppliers showed they wanted clear demands and expectations from retailers.
“Manufacturers and retailers are not aligned on their expectations for their suppliers,” said the report.
“Whilst some are pushing for segregated supply chains, on food or non-food, others are not engaged and/or have different timelines for achieving goals than others. This variability is present regardless of the size of the manufacturer or retailer.
“Closing the gap in end user demand will be key to transitioning the sector and there is more work, even in Europe, to get manufacturers and retailers on the same roadmap.”
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