BETTER BADGES OCTOBER 2019

Sustainable Palm Oil

Giki’s aim is to inspire people to make small, regular changes which are good for them, better for the environment and fairer to others. We also look to make small, regular changes to Giki in order to help support our users in their quest to buy more sustainably. Here we talk about some of the most recent changes at Giki. We know we will never be perfect, but we hope that by constantly listening to our users, and improving, we’ll get better and better over time.

New sustainable palm oil data

New palm oil data

Every year some of the world’s largest palm oil users report on their progress towards sustainable palm oil. They do this through the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) giving the public a clear view of the amount, and type, of palm oil that companies use.

We’ve analysed the latest data and have updated our Sustainable Palm Oil badges accordingly. There’s been real progress in some areas but there are still many companies who have not made positive changes over the last year.

Progress

For UK supermarket shoppers probably the best news is that both Waitrose and Morrisons now use sustainable palm oil based on our criteria. This means that people can buy own label products from Tesco, Sainsburys, the Co-op, Waitrose and Morrisons and know that they have committed to sustainable palm oil, are making progress towards that commitment and are also taking the lead in separating the palm oil they use from uncertified sources.

Challenges

Unfortunately it’s not all good news. This year we have seen three trends that are a step backwards for sustainable palm oil

“Redaction”

Some companies are hiding their palm oil data. When companies report their new palm oil data they are now able to hide the amount, and type, of palm oil that they use. It’s called redaction (usually reserved for national intelligence secrets) with the rationale being that it may be necessary to hide the amount of palm oil a company uses for competitive reasons. However, with so many large companies still reporting on their usage it seems unlikely this is a key factor. Rather for many companies it may be more likely that they just don’t want to share with the public the fact they are palm oil users. This seems a step backwards for transparency as it makes it harder for people to understand what they are buying. For our criteria we need to know the type of palm oil a company is using. Therefore, if this is not provided we cannot award a sustainable palm oil badge.

Shifting time commitments

Many companies set 2020 as their targets for 100% sustainable palm oil but, now it’s close, those same companies are starting to push back their commitments. Given we use 2020 as a firm date for sustainable palm oil these companies can no longer be awarded the badge. One important point is that there is no market shortage of sustainable palm oil, but it is more expensive, and so the reasons for pushing back on time commitments are unclear.

Less segregated and identity preserved palm oil

Sustainable palm oil comes in 4 “varieties”. The two best are segregated and identity preserved as these are the only palm oil types where the palm oil is not mixed with uncertified sources. However, over the last year some companies are using less of this palm oil and replacing it with mass balanced. For mass balanced sustainable palm oil is mixed with uncertified meaning that companies simply cannot know where it came from which increases the risk that it is linked to deforestation and biodiversity loss. We continue to believe that the majority of a company’s palm oil should be segregated and that, relatively soon, this should be 100%. This would put it on an equivalent level to organic food which no consumer would expect to be mixed in with non-organic produce.

For further details on how we award the Sustainable Palm Oil badges please see here.

Palm oil free

Finally no palm oil discussion is complete with consideration of going palm oil free. The arguments for sustainable palm oil vs palm oil free are well rehearsed and can be summarised as a) palm oil is a great crop and if you move away from it you have no guaranteed that the alternative will be any more sustainable. Furthermore millions of people rely on palm oil for the livelihoods vs b) the impact of palm oil on climate change and biodiversity is simply so great that we have to find alternatives and / or dramatically reduce the consumption of products that contain palm oil.

As a result we’ve been asking our users whether they’d like to see a palm oil free badge that would sit alongside sustainable palm oil. We believe the first key step is to stop buying unsustainable palm oil and either sustainable palm or palm oil free is a potential route for people to follow and a palm oil free badge would also open up more options for people in the supermarket to avoid unsustainable palm oil. If you have a view then please do contact us.