Walmart & Tesco accused of backing ‘unsustainable’ palm oil trade

But Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose win praise in latest Rainforest Foundation UK analysis

(Pic: The Co-operative)

(Pic: The Co-operative)

Walmart, Tescos and Morrisons are driving the destruction of some of the world’s most precious habitats, according to a study by Rainforest Foundation UK.

The group has just published the latest results of its Appetite for Destruction campaign, naming and shaming suppliers and retailers who do not use sustainable palm oil in products.

‘Unsustainable’ palm oil plantations are often created by destroying virgin rainforest, depriving wildlife and indigenous communities of their natural habitats, and releasing huge levels of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Producers with poor rankings include Procter and Gamble, Superdrug and Avalon. In contrast, smaller companies such as Honesty Cosmetics, Little Satsuma and Pure Nuff Stuff all scored highly.

“We call on hair product companies to face up to their environmental responsibilities, reduce their use of palm oil, and help ensure the long-term survival of Africa’s rainforest, its people and unique wildlife,” said Simon Counsell, RFUK executive director.

Below we’ve picked some of the ‘winners and losers’ from this latest report.

The Co-operative: it topped the survey certifying its own-brand products as sustainable under one of the certification schemes developed by the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil. The Co-operative says that any palm oil it uses has a sustainable footing and supports the farmers involved in its production.

Sainsbury’s: A close second, Sainsbury’s has launched a further 17 biscuit lines containing sustainable palm oil, including savoury biscuits such as cream crackers.

Waitrose: the retailer hit its target of using sustainably sourced palm oil in all own-label products by the end of 2012, and has been commended by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as the first UK retailer to use its trademark logo on products that use palm oil in significant quantities.

That was the top. Here’s the sorry tale at the bottom of the league:

Tesco: it has set a target to only use 100% certified sustainable palm oil in its UK products by 2015. In 2011/12 “around 66% of the Tesco own-brand products that contain palm oil or its derivatives [complied] with our code of practice”. Tesco also says that it is “working to understand the barriers to purchasing sustainable palm oil in our non-UK markets”.

Morrisons: it says just 27% of the 16,834 tonnes of the retailer’s own label suppliers products have been certified sustainable but has set a target of 100% sustainable to be reached by 2015.

Wal-mart:  the company has said 20% of its global palm oil use supports sustainable growing. This includes GreenPalm certificates, Mass Balance and Segregated. Six of its international markets purchased GreenPalm certificates to cover all of their 2012 palm oil usage.

Shopping list

Own brand products may be ethical, but the products stored in your favourite supermarket may not be. RFUK has ranked the products on a scoring system of 1-20, with 20 being the best score. Companies that do not use palm oil or their derivatives score 20. Companies that use it but make no substantial policy statements and are not members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil score 0.


Neal’s Yard (17)

Johnson & Johnson (12)

Body Shop body butter (11)

Boots skin care products (10)

L’Oreal skincare (9)

Vaseline, Dove, Simple (7)

Head & Shoulders (4)

Herbal Essences (4)

Estee Lauder (2)

Superdrug skincare (0)


Ryvita (16)

Warbutons (11)

Kingsmill (11)

Mr Kipling (11)

Greggs (5)


Island Bakery (20)

Jammie Dodgers (13)

Kellogs (9)

Orea (3)

Snack-a-jack (3)


Divine (20)

Nestle (10)

Mars (7)

Ferrero (1)

Thorntons (0)


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