Fast-food giants clogging up sustainable palm-oil progress

Nearly three-quarters of the world's biggest palm-oil users have improved their commitment to sustainable sourcing in the past year, but fast-food brands are evidently lagging behind.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has ranked the 10 largest palm-oil users in three sectors – fast-food, packaged food and personal care. Despite broadly positive results – 21 companies out of 30 increased their commitments – the fast-food sector was a clear loser.

Domino’s and the parent company of Pizza Hut and KFC were among five companies to make no commitment to sustainable sourcing whatsoever, while only Dunkin’ Donuts has made a ‘strong’ commitment out of the sector.

The report said: “While Dunkin’ Brands’ commitment still has room for improvement, this development is especially notable in showing that it is possible to change from a laggard to a leader in the fast-food sector in only a year.”

Personal care

By contrast, there were substantial improvements in the ‘personal care’ industry, with eight of 10 companies improving their palm oil commitments or current sourcing practice.

L’Oréal, Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, and Procter & Gamble all committed to fully protect forests and peat protections.

Clorox remains the only personal care company with no palm oil commitment, and consequently is the only company in this sector with a score of zero.

Packaged foods

However, “the packaged foods sector remains the clear leader,” said the report. This sector is led by Nestle which received the top score overall. Just yesterday, the snacking giant came second in Oxfam’s ‘Battle of the Brands’ rankings which considers sustainable agricultural sourcing.

Danone, Kellogs, Pepsico and Nestle have all made public commitments that, once implemented, will protect forests and peatlands and improve transparency and traceability in their supply chains.

The relatively high ranking of Pepsico could prove somewhat controversial, though, as the company was the target of an activist campaign in January because of its ‘destruction of the rainforest’ and ‘unsustainable use of palm oil’.


“Consumer pressure to change the palm oil industry is working,” concluded the report. “A new industry standard for sourcing deforestation-free and peat-free palm oil has been set in the global marketplace.

“Consumers must continue to put pressure on the palm oil industry until it becomes entirely free of deforestation, peatland destruction, and exploitation. Only then can consumers enjoy their favorite foods and products knowing that their purchases are not harming tropical forests and peatlands.”

The full scoring breakdown is available here

Brad Allen

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