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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.
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.
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.
Food Sustainability Manager
Read more on sustainability at our Co-op;