WWF praises Australian companies for sustainable palm oil efforts

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 23rd November 2011

Australian companies are buying more certified sustainable palm oil than ever before, according to an assessment of palm oil buyers by multi-national conservation group, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The WWF today released its Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2011, which measures over 130 major retailers and consumer goods manufacturers by looking at their commitment to, and use of, palm oil certified to the internationally recognised standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Palm oil is a highly versatile vegetable oil derived from very productive oil palm trees grown only in the tropics. Green activists claim that palm oil plantations are replacing rainforests and destroying wildlife habitats. Others counter-argue that palm oil can be produced sustainably.

Australian retailers Woolworths, Coles Supermarkets and Metcash; as well as food producers Goodman Fielder, Arnott’s, Snack Brands and Peerless Holdings were amongst those analysed by the WWF.

According to the WWF, most major Australian food companies have increased their use of sustainable palm oil over the past year. The WWF found that 66 per cent of the companies have committed to sourcing 100 per cent Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil-certified palm oil by 2015 or earlier.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by the industry stakeholders and non-government organisations in 2004.  Now with more than 400 members worldwide, the RSPO has established a rigorous set of principles and requirements for palm oil producers to produce sustainable palm oil.

Under the RSPO, companies can purchase Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) which has been approved as sustainable, and is grown on certified plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Unilever was one of the founding members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Unilever’s Chief Executive of Australian operations, Sebastian Lazell, said he believes current and future palm oil needs can be met without any further deforestation if industry, governments and NGOs work together to boost production and market uptake of sustainable palm oil.

He said, “In 2008 we made a global commitment to source all of our palm oil sustainably by 2015. So far, our entire Australian and New Zealand operations and two thirds of our global requirements are covered by GreenPalm certificates and segregated sustainable palm oil.”

Australian Palm Oil Labelling Bill awaits verdict

Meanwhile, a private members Bill that would require producers, manufacturers and distributors of food containing palm oil to list palm oil as an ingredient, is subject to a final decision by the Federal House of Representatives. In September 2011, Australian Food News reported on the Australian House of Representatives’ Economics Committee’s recommendation that the bill should not proceed.

AFGC Chief Executive Kate Carnell said today that the WWF’s Scorecard results suggest there is “no need for compulsory, expensive labelling of palm oil on products in Australia”.