The NGO rated both food and consumer goods companies on their track record for actions to cut deforestation out of the palm oil supply chain.
Using publicly available policies and reports, Greenpeace evaluated each company in three areas: its commitment to responsible sourcing and the practical steps it takes to ensure the palm oil it buys is not linked to deforestation; transparency, including how they deal with suppliers that breach the ‘no deforestation’ policy; and they ways in which they support and promote wider industry reform. Responsible sourcing was weighted most highly.
Out of the fourteen companies evaluated, only one - Italian confectioner Ferrero - is able to trace almost 100% of its palm oil back to the plantation it is grown on.
Meanwhile most of the companies are failing to get third-party verification for their deforestation-free claims and none publish a full list of their suppliers, the NGO said. Annisa Rahmawati of Greenpeace Indonesia said brands had a responsibility to their customers to act. “Palm oil can be grown responsibly without destroying forests, harming local communities or threatening orangutans. But our survey shows that brands are not doing enough to stop the palm oil industry ransacking Indonesia's rainforests.”
Strong, decent or failed stance on deforestation?
Nestlé was praised for substantial traceability of supplies back to the plantation – significant given the high volume of supply – as well as participating in initiatives to reform the industry and publically disclosing three of its suppliers. But Greenpeace called on it to “show further leadership” by disclosing all of its suppliers and sub-suppliers, including the location and names of mills, plantations and refineries, and ensure its policy is applied across its suppliers’ operations.
Unilever received a ‘decent’ rating by the NGO. Despite recently building a fractionation plant in North Sumatra for full traceability of that supply, it is still reliant on GreenPalm certificates meaning it cannot guarantee its suppliers are respecting its ‘no deforestation’ pledge.
GreenPalm certificates are bought by manufacturers as part of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil's (RSPO) book and claim model. Manufacturers source and use conventional palm oil in their products but can buy GreenPalm certificates to ‘off-set’ this, with each certificate corresponding to a given quantity of sustainably produced palm oil.
Soft drink and snack giant PepsiCo failed for responsible sourcing as well as its overall rating, making it the worst performing food company in the report. Due to its almost entire dependance on GreenPalm certificates it cannot guarantee its supply is deforestation-free.
Other rated companies include Kellogg, General Mills, Danone and Orkla.
The RSPO's book and claim model came under particular fire from Greenpeace, which was slammed as a false solution. “Many [companies] are still relying on false solutions such as GreenPalm certificates, instead of taking meaningful steps towards ensuring that the physical oil they buy is not linked to forest destruction. (...). Phasing out GreenPalm certificates in favour of obtaining physical certified RSPO palm oil [is] an interim step towards independent third-party verification to best practice standards,” it said, calling on manufacturers to switch to the standards set by the Palm Oil Innovation Group or an equivalent.
But the RSPO refuted this accusation. A spokesperson told FoodNavigator that GreenPalm certificates remain an important option for many growers, including smallholders, who can’t access the market for physically traded certified sustainable palm oil. "GreenPalm certificates link growers and buyers independently of their location. They are also necessary for buyers who want to support sustainable palm oil production but can’t source derivatives or other ingredients made from certified sustainable palm oil."
Meanwhile the RSPO Next scheme, launched last month, makes a series of extra environmental commitments on deforestation, the use of fires and planting on peatland, that it says match those made by the Palm Oil Innovation Group.
The spokesperson also said the RSPO system is built on third party auditing by accredited certification bodies, which are in turn audited and monitored by a third party, Accreditation Services International.