Palm oil fruits
September 22, 2016

Palm oil update

2017 Update

Last year we used 6,654 tonnes of palm oil in 1,038 of our own brand Co-op food and non-food products (2016: 4,434 tonnes in 937 Co-op branded food products). 

The palm oil used in these products was certified as sustainable under one of the RSPO certification schemes. The graph shows how we are managing the change from Credits to Segregated or Mass Balance, to support our aim of making palm oil more segregated and sustainable. 

In 2016 GreenPalm certification began transitioning into RSPO certification, and we therefore, used a combination of both. In 2017 we switched to RSPO credits. 

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We know that so many of you have an interest in palm oil, as we often get asked about it. So we thought we would answer some of those questions, with a bit of pa oil history thrown in too.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil which has been used for millennia, dating back to the Egyptians. Originally found in Ghana, it is the most widely used oil in the world. It grows best around the band of the equator with Indonesia and Malaysia producing the most.

The oil comes from the fruit of the palm tree which has a red skin, soft orange flesh and a slightly harder seed, known as the kernel. Both the seed and the flesh can be milled and refined to produce oils.

Unlike sunflower oil and rapeseed oil, palm oil is hard at room temperature meaning it has a unique property when used in food and household products. It also has a higher yield than other oils from the same amount of land, meaning you can grow much more oil in less space.

Why does is need to be sourced responsibly?

As palm oil has become increasingly popular globally, demand has encouraged more farmers to plant palm trees to produce the oil. To produce more oil and earn an income, farmers turn over land which was uncultivated to produce agricultural land.

Due to these concerns, the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was founded in 2004 as a not for profit organisation. They set the environmental and social standards for sustainably sourcing palm oil. Some groups see this as controversial as it includes all elements of the palm oil industry – including charities, oil palm producers, processors of traders, consumer good manufacturers, retailers and banks/investors. However, this means that they are able to work holistically to make changes.

How does the Co-op source responsibly?

At the Co-op we believe that the key to sustainable sourcing is being proactive in our work and being part of the solution.

If other oils were produced on the same scale they would take more space to do so. Therefore, ensuring palm oil production is sustainable is the best route for lowering the environmental impact. We have supported RSPO since they were founded and via the Retailer Palm Oil Group we now have a representative on the RSPO Board of Governors.

We’re all about transparency and although only recently required by law, we have always labelled ‘Palm Oil’ in our ingredient lists.

Since 2012 we have covered all our palm oil usage via one of the RSPO palm oil schemes. Segregated (or fully certified) supply is the more successful way to show palm oil farmers that there is a demand for sustainable palm oil. We are working on getting 100% of our supply segregated and you can see our progress on the graph below.


Segregated + ID preserved is fully certified supply. Mass Balance is partially certified supply. GreenPalm or Credits is where certified supply chains are not available.

WWF have recognised our efforts scoring us 9/9 with as “leading the way” progress on essential items and “well on the path” for physical Certified Sustainable Palm Oil in their 2016 palm oil score card.

Our work on palm oil is constant and we are always looking for innovative ways to support responsible production. We hope to have more news on the topic next year.

View our palm oil usage and progress in more detail here. 

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Hi there
    Very interested to see a blog on this topic, thanks.
    Can you explain more about what makes production “sustainable” or not, in the case of Palm oil?


  2. Great, the less damage to the planet the better! The less animal products the better too 🙂 Thanks Co-Op


  3. So, when will you be able to say “we insist that our palm fruit oil comes from sustainable sources” like Nairn’s do?


  4. “…farmers turn over land which was uncultivated to produce agricultural land.” Palm Oil farmers are destroying one of the planet’s most important ecosystems and causing mass extinctions of Indonesian elephants, Orangutans and many other of earth’s creatures. It also adds to global climate change. This must be stopped. This blog is pure propaganda.


  5. I heard there are health issues when eating palm oil. The Center for Science in the Public Interest claims that since the edible oil is high in saturated fat and low in polyunsaturated fat it, could promote heart diseases. The Center classes palm oil as better than partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, but more harmful than liquid oils such as olive and canola. It is very difficult to find foods that do not have palm oil, it’s in everything.


  6. Hi Co-op

    I saw this blog as I was wanting to discuss this with you over the phone.

    It’s now that time for mince pies and after attempts to look in Tesco, Aldi and Asda for mincemeat without Palm Oil I was in no luck. I thought I would go to you in the hope it would have no Palm Oil in. However, I was sadly mistaken!

    Are you able to clarify whether the palm oil you use in Christmas mincemeat is sustainable because it did not say anything on the jar whether it was or not. It is a very important issue for me and I think it would need to be addressed if you are to continue to show you are helping the environment and communities.

    Kind regards,



  7. Hi James, all the palm oil we use in all our products is sustainable and sourced in the way this blog post says. ^Catherine


  8. thanks for flagging up re mincemeat James – impt to me too. I also make my own and use vegetarian suet which also contains palm oil.
    Cathryn can Coop differentiate, which products contain segregated oil? eg do we know if mincemeat contains segregated or not?
    Also I still.don’ t fully understand the difference between sustainable and non sustainable.


  9. The argument about taking up less land does not take into account the sensitivity of the environments in which palm oil is growing causing destruction of wildlife habitats and extensive pollution and carbon emissions from burning peat.If the Coop is doing so well on palm oil why doesn’t it tell anyone? There is no mention of this on their products or in their shops.


  10. Hi all here is a useful explanation about palm oil from Greenpeace.

    How is the Coop doing at ensuring the companies milling palm oil for Coop products are not involved in other deforestation projects elsewhere?


  11. Anyone with half a brain knows that there is no such thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil. The Co-op is the worst of all supermarkets – just try finding anything that does NOT contain palm oil in your local Co-Op. It looks as though the Co-Op are determined to drive the oragutan to extinction all by themselves.


  12. Rather than destroying an environment halfway around the world then having to transport huge amounts of the product to the UK we have the ability to use our own fats and oils from our own production. This is why I use sugar from sugarbeet as opposed to sugar cane.



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