Palm oil fruits
September 22, 2016

Palm oil update

2018 Update

In 2018 we used 6,206 tonnes of palm oil in 793 Co-op branded food and non-food products (2017: 6,654 tonnes in 1,038 Co-op branded food products). All the palm oil 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. Before 2016 this graph did not include cleaning and cosmetic products, but these are since included.


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! 32 Comments

  1. […] Co-op Food, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S, Morrisons, and Waitrose all say they are committed to only […]

  2. If the Coop was really serious about an ethical food policy they would send out their own auditors to check on their supply chain. The term ‘sustainably sourced’ is rather meaningless otherwise. As a Coop member I’m somewhat surprised and disappointed when ethical alternatives e.g coconut oil are available. I’d buy more bread and Bakery products if they removed the palm oil from their recipe.

  3. Hmmm…. maybe best to read this if you think palm oil should be used in ANY products!
    See link:

  4. Trouble is, anything relying on “certification” is massively open to, very profitable, fraud, whereas using a non-palm oil makes sure that we as customers are not culpable for driving further deforestation.
    It is primarily the cheapness of palm oil… and the lack of a properly questioning public… that is causing the disasterous, rapid, clearing of huge areas of rain-forest, sometimes using violent means against people and endangered animals who depend on the forest. If the palm-oil industry is involved in the “certification” and there are no fully independent, well-resourced widespread checks, then any certification is doubly suspect. Only a rigourously researched, independent view, such as that of Greenpeace is likely to be believable.
    The same principle applies to much of the timber we see in furniture our shops. Quick profits can be made by simply stamping a tree trunk as “sustainable” and adding a bit of paperwork. Most furniture shops don’t even seem to make any claims about using sustainable timber, or “don’t know” when asked… Consequently I don’t put temptation in the way of all the unscrupulous, sometimes violent, deforestation companies, I avoid products with any palm oil in the ingredients. The only way you can really be sure.

  5. 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.

    • Well said David. Sugar is blamed for health problems of today. How about fats as well. I use sugar and butter and anything else except rapeseed made in the UK. It is the carbon footprint that is wrong as you say. Look at the issue on wood pellets as an example of propaganda for carbon emissions. They destroy hardwood forests and the eco-system in places like North America. Send the wood all the way over here in the UK. The wood has to go through a drying process first (like coal had to to turn it into coke) before it can be shredded and formed into pellets – another process that uses energy. The public buys them for their new fangled wood stoves which still need electricity to run the programme on stove and will switch off when there is an electricity blackout unless you are connected to a generator – another source of carbon emissions energy. The bio-mass plants claim they have less carbon emissions than a coal fired power station and because of that they don’t have to provide proof or certification to the government. Those carbon emissions data has recently been blown out of the water by independent scientists. So who is duping who or is it deliberate collaboration between companies and government. To me it smacks of fraud, party political funding. Money talks!

  6. 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.

    • Hi Roy, it’s not just the Co-op, the practice is rife right across the food industry. You pizza, your bread, your confectionery even your mince pie and Xmas cake. They government is blaming sugar for our health issues, how about looking at these types of fats? I read a medical journal some years back stating the chaff waste products from rapeseed can’t be fed to cattle because it is carcinogenic to them. If I read it wrong then so be it but I do not use anything with rapeseed in it. Sugar substitutes also have health implications. I have gone back to using butter and sugar, at least that way I know what I am using. If kill myself in the process then that is down to me and not the fraudulent propaganda that is fed to us on a daily basis by these companies.

  7. 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?

    • Hi Barbara, the Co-op can/t make such assurances because they don’t find out for themselves by verifying the certificates they are issued from these countries.

  8. 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.

    • Exactly my point Steve. It’s all about money at the end of the day and how best companies like Co-op can part you from it by lying to you. They don’t do their own reconnaissance fieldwork and research for themselves. They look at a certificate and think it is true what it states. I would like bet that the CEO of Co-op has never been to one of these palm oil farms.

  9. 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.

    • Barbara, good old traditional fruit mincemeat was made from beef suet and you can still buy this from the butcher. You can clarify this as you would butter (ghee) to use in your mincemeat. If you freeze it it will shred better.

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

    • Prove it Catherine!! Have you seen the farms for yourself or do you just take the word of the farmer and other ‘officials’? Wake up and smell the Co-op coffee!!

  11. 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,


    • I’d also like to know Co-Op.

      Look forward to your response.

    • Hi James, palm oil is in nearly everything these days, even Hovis bread. I have come to the conclusion that, to avoid eating or buying anything with palm oil in, you have to make it yourself. I make my own mincemeat and mince pies and they don’t go hard but keep very well.

  12. 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.

    • Yes Janet, even in Hovis bread that purport to be traditional bakers. The same recipe since what date does it have on their packaging? Really? In my day they never used palm oil in bread.
      I once read a medical journal about rapeseed. It said that they don’t feed the fodder (waste product chaff) to cattle as it is carcinogenic to them. Just like we don’t eat rhubarb leaves in some respects. That says it all doesn’t it. So I don’t use anything that says it is ‘vegetable’ oil as it not only contains rapeseed but also palm oil. Think about this. When I was young there was hardly anybody fat. Sugar not sugar substitutes were used yet they are blaming sugar for today’s obesity and other health problems. How about fats then? We had butter, Stork margarine and lard and not all these fancy oils that are supposed to be better for us. Really? It is not just the amount of food we are eating but what they are putting into our food that is to blame for all our health issues and feed our cravings to consume this poison.

      • Hi there Andrea
        thanks for all your useful tips (yes I have made my own suet when we produced our own meat but had actually forgotten so thanks for the reminder) -however I have to say re Stork margarine – I seem to remember that margarine was originally whale oil – I won’t comment on how healthy that was for humans but it was not so good for the whales ! So not everything was better in those good old days we both remember !
        If you are at the Coop AGM please do come to the Council stall – we can compare notes on some of the points you have raised.

  13. “…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.

    • Herbneu I totally agree with you. Companies that say they use sustainable palm oil don’t go out to these farms to prove it for themselves. It’s pure claptrap. Trying to find products that don’t use any palm oil in the ingredient list is near on impossible these days. Even Hovis use it. Yes Hovis! They purport to be traditional bakers but in my day, traditional bakers never used palm oil in their bread. So who do these companies think they are kidding? Obviously the unsuspecting consumer who cares about our planet. But money talks and these companies would argue that, buy using palm oil, it keeps prices low. Another load of rhetorical claptrap! I am on a mission about this. I hope you are too.

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

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

  16. 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?


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