UK closes in on 100% sustainable palm oil

Up to 93% of pure palm oil imported into the UK could come from sustainable sources, according to new Government figures, putting the UK close to a target of 100% by the end of 2015.

The data, released by Defra on Tuesday, came with several caveats however, Firstly it only accounts for pure palm oil imports rather than any consumer goods products containing the oil.

Secondly, the report is uncertain about the amount of palm oil actually being imported into the UK.

Using EU data, the proportion of sustainable palm oil is 93%, but using Oil World figures, that percentage drops to 72%. The lack of certainty was attributed to the complex and opaque supply chains associated with palm oil.

Despite this, the Defra report was optimistic, saying: “Overall, the continued increase in the volume and proportion of UK imports supported by RSPO supply chain models between 2013 and 2014 demonstrates continued progress towards achieving 100% sourcing of credibly certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2015. 

Figure 1: Certified Sustainable Palm Oil purchases in the UK supported by RSPO supply chain mechanisms


A stakeholder survey carried out as part of the report also revealed that “most stakeholders felt that demand for sustainable palm oil was increasing”.

The report marks the third annual review of the UK’s palm oil consumption since a 2012 commitment to 100% credibly certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2015.

Next steps

Environmental charity WWF – a founding member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – said the figures showed that companies were acting on their sustainable palm oil sourcing commitments.

WWF palm oil expert Dr Emma Keller said: “We are pleased to see the UK Government’s leadership on this issue.

“The forthcoming challenges will be maintaining capacity in Government to provide support and to monitor progress, in the face of significant budget cuts. WWF urges that efforts are maintained in order to fulfil the 100% sustainable palm oil commitment and to widen the scope of the commitments to include palm oil derivatives and palm oil in finished products.

“The threats of unsustainable palm oil production remain and are becoming increasingly visible.

Much of Indonesia and Malaysia are in the midst of a haze crisis largely caused by slash and burn land clearing practices to make way for agricultural production, including palm oil.

“Whilst the fires are due to the collective negligence of companies, smallholders and government, the palm oil industry has an important role to play in eliminating unsustainable practices that lead to deforestation, loss of peat soils and air pollution caused by burning.”

Brad Allen

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