Big brands ‘failing’ on palm oil policies, Greenpeace claims

PepsiCo, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson are among a raft of consumer goods companies that are "letting their customers down" by failing to break the link between the use of palm oil in everyday products and deforestation, a new Greenpeace report has concluded.

A ‘Company Scorecard’ of 14 major brands on how they are fulfilling ‘zero-deforestation’ commitments reveals that none of the companies can guarantee their supply of palm oil is not linked to deforestation, and most are “moving far too slowly” to address the issue.

“Palm oil is found in so many products, which is why brands have a responsibility to their customers to act,” said Annisa Rahmawati of Greenpeace Indonesia – an area where deforestation for palm oil plantations poses a ‘major threat to endangered animals’. “Palm oil can be grown responsibly without destroying forests, harming local communities or threatening orangutans. But our survey shows that brands are not doing enough to stop the palm oil industry ransacking Indonesia’s rainforests.”

Ferrero, the Italian manufacturer of Ferrero Rocher and Nutella, is the only brand surveyed that can trace nearly 100% of its palm oil back to the plantation it is grown on, while the world’s largest food company Nestlé is the only other firm to be rated as ‘Strong’ on its palm oil policies.

At the other end of the scale, Pepsi, Colgate and Johnson & Johnson are all ‘Failing’ with their palm oil progress, according to Greenpeace, due to slow progress on tracing palm oil to the mill and no meaningful action to reduce exposure to deforestation.

“People should be able to brush their teeth or eat a snack without pushing orangutans even closer to extinction,” added Rahmawati. “These companies must have a fully transparent supply chain and ensure they only buy palm oil from suppliers that are protecting our rainforests.”

Greenpeace is calling on these consumer goods companies to take immediate action to protect forests and help to prevent another outbreak of fires like those that devastated Indonesia last year.

Palm oil progress: Company responses

Since the publication of this report, edie has spoken to all three of the ‘Failing’ companies, to hear their views on their progress on palm oil sourcing and zero-deforestation commitments. Below are the responses of company spokespeople, in full.

Johnson & Johnson

“Johnson & Johnson has an obligation to preserve the environment and we are implementing programs across the world to limit our footprint and environmental impact. In 2014, we published our Responsible Palm Oil Sourcing Criteria and engaged The Forest Trust (TFT) to work with us and our largest suppliers to share supply chain information and assess compliance with our sourcing criteria which prohibits development in High Carbon Stock forests, peatlands and burning as a method to clear land for new developments or to re-plant. 

“We do not directly purchase palm oil (PO) or palm kernel oil (PKO) but rather ingredients that are derived from PO and PKO.  Johnson & Johnson has removed one supplier for noncompliance with our standards and we will continue to take appropriate measures to verify conformance and engage with other companies and NGOs to promote responsible palm oil production to address the environmental impact.”


“We’re proud of our goals to fight deforestation and our progress towards them, including working with The Forest Trust and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and purchasing certified oils and GreenPalm Certificates that together contributed nearly $8 million to support sustainable palm oil production since 2013. We are targeting over 75% certified mass-balance oils in 2016 and are committed to achieve our goals for a deforestation-free palm oil supply chain within four years, including working with Greenpeace and others on tracking to the plantation the source of these products.”


“We take the issue of deforestation and the sourcing of sustainable palm oil very seriously, and so PepsiCo has a long-standing palm oil policy. Our action plan reflects our enhanced efforts, including traceability to the mill level by 2016 and the sourcing of 100 percent physically certified sustainable palm oil.  We recognize this is a journey, and we will continue to evolve our efforts and commitments.”

A number of other big brands including coffee chain Starbucks and fast food organisation Yum Brands have come under fire for their palm oil policies over the year, with campaign groups urging consumers to boycott the brands until significant action was taken.

Last month, edie reported that Golden Agri-Resources (GAR), the world’s second largest palm oil plantation company, had completed the mapping and traceability of its supply chain through to each of its 489 mills in Indonesia.

Starbucks became the latest major brand to come under fire from campaign groups for its palm oil policy, with campaign groups urging consumers to boycott the coffee shop chain. Yum Brands – the parent-company of fast-food brands KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut – committed to 100% sustainable palm oil following a similar level of pressure from environmental activists.

The 14 companies reviewed by Greenpeace in this report are: Colgate-Palmolive, Danone, Ferrero, General Mills, Ikea, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, Mars, Mondelez, Nestle, Orkla, PepsiCo, P&G and Unilever.

Greenpeace palm oil scorecard

Luke Nicholls

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