The world’s biggest brands are failing in their commitments to banish deforestation from their supply chains through their use of palm oil, despite making public claims to environmental sustainability, according to two reports. Palm oil is found in a wide range of foods and some cosmetics and household goods, but its production is often problematic. The race to satisfy growing demand over the past two decades has resulted in vast plantations replacing native forest in countries in south-east Asia, while efforts to prevent forest destruction have often been stymied by corruption or companies flouting the rules.
Scores of the world’s biggest consumer brands have agreed to phase out deforestation through the use of sustainable palm oil by 2020, but this goal looks far out of reach for many, according to separate reports from the campaigning groups WWF and Rainforest Action Network.
Many of the companies highlighted as performing poorly or missing targets are household names, including Kellogg’s, Mondelez and General Mills, whose brands include Yoplait and Häagen-Dazs. In the UK, major brands such as Greggs, Warburtons, Reckitt Benckiser and Associated British Foods also ranked relatively low in the table.WWF found that only 15 out of 173 companies surveyed were performing well and “leading the way”. Thirty companies were judged to be lagging behind, while 41 failed to respond.
Emma Keller, palm oil expert at WWF-UK, said:"... after a decade of promises, too many companies have failed to deliver..."
The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) assessed eight global brands – Kellogg’s, General Mills, Mondelez, Hershey’s, Mars, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever – involved in a key area of south-east Asia known as the Leuser ecosystem. The survey found none were performing adequately in avoiding “conflict palm oil”, defined as palm oil whose production is leading to deforestation, loss of peatland or other habitat, and exploitation of workers or indigenous peoples.
“The policy commitments of all eight companies]have not stopped deforestation, threats to endangered species, or delivered respect for human rights or remedy for exploitation of indigenous peoples, local communities and workers,” said RAN. "None of the companies have adequate systems in place to identify and cut or reform non-compliant suppliers in their supply chains.”Robin Averbeck, of RAN, said: “None of these companies has a plan to verify credibly that they are not causing deforestation from palm oil. They only respond when NGOs publicly shame them. Their claims are greenwash.”