748 words approx. 3.5 minutes to read

I’m often asked about palm oil, what it is, why are there are concerns about it, how Co-op source it and use it. So, here are some answers to the questions I get asked most frequently.

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. The oil comes from the fruit of the palm tree, from both the seed and flesh, which are milled and refined, and the trees grow best around the band of the equator, with Indonesia and Malaysia producing the most. 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.

Palm oil can be sourced sustainably or not-so sustainably. When it is grown without sustainability in mind, it can lead to devastating deforestation and harm to wildlife, people and the climate.

Does Co-op use palm oil and if so, is it sustainable?

Co-op does use palm oil and 100% of the palm oil we use in Co-op branded products is covered by The Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and have been since 2005 and 100% covered by one of the certifications since 2012.

(RSPO) who set the environmental and social standards for sustainably sourcing palm oil. As a member, we’re among charities, palm oil producers, processors, consumer goods manufacturers, other retailers, banks and investors who work together to make positive changes.

100% of our palm oil usage supports responsible production”

100% of the palm oil in our products is covered by one of the RSPO standards and we’re currently scored as “leading the way” on the WWF palm oil scorecard.

Segregated (or fully certified) palm oil is the best way to show palm oil farmers that there is a demand for sustainable palm oil and we are working on getting 100% of our supply segregated (or fully certified).

You can see our progress on the graph below.

Palm Oil Graph

How much palm oil do we use?

In 2017 we used 6,654 tonnes of palm oil in 1,038 of our Co-op branded food and non-food products.

In 2016 we used 4,434 tonnes of palm oil in 937 of our Co-op branded food and non-food products. All this palm oil was certified as sustainable under one of the RSPO certification schemes.

PalmOilBanner

How healthy is palm oil for me?

Palm oil contributes to taste, heat stability and texture of food. The oil contains almost no trans fatty acids, which are more cholesterol-raising than saturated fatty acids and can be are found in vegetable oils. Palm oil can also be used to replace butter in some products and contains less saturated fat.

Is palm oil vegan?

Palm oil is a vegetable product and is officially vegan as it doesn’t use animals to make it.

However, some people feel that it may not be, because animals could be harmed through its production if not farmed sustainably. Read more from the Vegan Society.

Is a palm oil boycott the answer?

The UK only uses a very small amount of palm oil globally (the biggest users are China and India) so advice from environmental charities like WWF is that the best way to make change is to push for more sustainable palm oil, not boycotting. All retailers have a responsibility to ensure the palm oil used in their products is sourced responsibly, which will help to make sure the industry is sustainable.

There are several ways to help this sustainability be achieved.

We have taken the following proactive steps:

  • committed to sourcing only RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil
  • knowing, and actively managing, how much palm oil we use and being clear where it comes from
  • joining the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  • playing an active role in the Retailer Palm Oil Group – working together to make positive change in the industry
  • participating and sharing our data to charity scorecards (e.g. WWF’s Palm Oil scorecard)

WWF also believe that working together on sustainable palm oil is preferable to a boycott and they encourage consumers to check their palm oil scorecard to see how retailers, manufacturers and food service companies fare when it comes to using and supporting the production of more sustainable palm oil.

Sarah Wakefield
Food Sustainability Manager


Read more on sustainability at our Co-op;

Join the conversation! 6 Comments

  1. Hi Co-op, this article just shows how you need to go all the way to become sustainable. I know the Co-op is one of our champions, but you need to go further than a standard response. The fate of Orangutans in Indonesia and Malaysia is disgraceful and we should do all we can to help them survive.
    Just read and act on the palm oil issue below.

    Major palm oil industry players are meeting in Paris today to decide the future of so-called “sustainable” certified palm oil.
    Now is a critical moment for us to flood Twitter and appear full screen on the RSPO’s live tweet broadcast, forcing it to act.

    Please, will you join me in tweeting at the RSPO about protecting our rainforest from destruction?

    LIVE TWEET THE RSPO NOW!

    Charles,

    I’m writing to you from my hometown of Paris, France, where the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is hosting its annual conference with major industry players like PepsiCo and Unilever to make critical decisions about the future of “sustainable” palm oil.

    While I confront key industry players about the ongoing rainforest destruction and workers rights abuses inside, I need your help to make our voice is heard on social media.

    As you read these words, the RSPO is making final decisions about whether to continue certifying deforestation, endangered species extinction, massive climate emissions, and ongoing human rights abuses as “sustainable”. We’ve got to fight back hard to ensure this doesn’t happen.

    To pressure the RSPO, we need as many people as possible tweeting during the meeting today. Together, we can take over its official Twitter hashtag #EURT2018 and show the RSPO and its members that the world is watching.

    Will you join me in asking the RSPO to do the right thing and strengthen its Principles and Criteria and sanction non-compliant members?

    Tweet at the RSPO now.

    The RSPO is undergoing a review of its standards, but I’ve seen the latest draft and it still allows deforestation and degradation on carbon-rich peatlands to be certified as “sustainable.” It also fails to set a deadline to restore carbon-rich peatlands degraded by palm oil plantations, releasing carbon bombs and worsening climate chaos.

    The RSPO needs to put its money where its mouth is and punish non-compliant members such as Indofood, Indonesia’s largest food company, and its palm oil arm, IndoAgri. The RSPO has failed to sanction its controversial member despite years of investigations showing the company is abusing workers. As you read my email, Indofood continues to profit from sales of RSPO certified palm oil while violating workers’ rights and destroying rainforests in Indonesia.

    Please will you join me in asking the RSPO to strengthen its Principles and Criteria and sanction non-compliant members?

    Tweet at the RSPO now.

    The RSPO is at a crossroads as its members convene in Paris today. The decisions made following today’s meetings and plenaries will determine whether the RSPO becomes a credible certification scheme of the leading ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ (NDPE) policies which have already been adopted by many of its members, or fades into irrelevancy, allowing and ignoring destruction and climate chaos.

    This is a critical moment for the RSPO. Its members have pledged NDPE palm oil supply chains by 2020, and this is the only chance to review the Principles and Criteria between now and 2020. If the RSPO does not act now to bring the Principles and Criteria into line with NDPE standards, then it will forgo its ability to contribute to the implementation of a growing number of its members’ NDPE policies.

    Tweet at the RSPO now.

    LIVE TWEET THE RSPO NOW!

    Thanks for all that you do,
    Fatah, Eoin, and the team at SumOfUs

    More information:

    RSPO: Completely Worthless, or Just Mostly Worthless? (UPDATED), The Huffington Post, 31 March 2017
    Why ‘Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)’ palm oil is neither responsible nor sustainable, Rainforest Action Network, 25 April 2013

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  2. Having spent time volunteering in Borneo on the Orang-u-tan rehabilitation centres I have seen first hand the consequences of PO on these endangered animals. I am of two minds about supporting a full ban (like Iceland) or supporting sustainably sourced PO. I am pleased that you have provided an update of the Co-op’s position as this is a debate that needs to be address and highlighted as part of the Co-op Difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Surely even using sustainably-sourced palm oil underpins demand for it. If ‘responsible’ users buy all of the sustainable palm oil, then the unscrupulous buyers will source from the cheapest seller, i.e. unsustainably-sourced.
    Perhaps the only way to protect habitat is to use alternative oils.

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  4. Sarah good morning,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Interesting to see the drop in Coop usage in recent years…..what has occurred to make this happen?

    Please tell me why other Supermarkets are considering the use of PO in their Products. Some actually stopping the use of PO! The Supermarkets I am talking about are associated to the same Organisations as you are!

    If you have a Supplier who is classified as Responsible and that Supplier becomes busier and needs more growing area , does that Supplier remove Rainforest? Therefore the subsequent Product is not sustainable!

    Interesting to hear your reply

    Kind regards

    Michael J Clack

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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  5. If you can eat it ,you can wear it like moisturizer Ric

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