Tesco clarifies position on sustainable palm oil

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Palm oil New britain palm oil

Tesco has clarified its position on sustainable palm oil following the introduction of a new code of practice to suppliers issued in the summer.While...

Tesco has clarified its position on sustainable palm oil following the introduction of a new code of practice to suppliers issued in the summer.

While Tesco has set a target of using only 100% traceable, certified sustainable palm oil in its own-label products by 2015, it is also encouraging suppliers to buy GreenPalm certificates in the meantime to cover their use of palm oil or derivatives - until fully traceable sustainable derivatives become available.

A spokeswoman said: "Tesco allows all the four RSPO (Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil) approved supplier chains, including GreenPalm certificates. Suppliers should start using these four agreed systems now."

She added: "GreenPalm is a great way of keeping the demand for sustainable oil going whilst fully traceable oil is taken up in the derivative market. Uptake by our suppliers of sustainable oil through all four systems is being monitored on a monthly basis through our central specification database.

"From 2012 Tesco will only allow our suppliers to source palm oil that is 100% traceable - so that by 2015 all palm oil in our products is fully traceable."

M&S and Waitrose, which have also committed to using fully traceable certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) in their own-label products, have both agreed to buy GreenPalm certificates to support sustainable palm oil production as an “interim measure” until fully traceable sustainable palm fractions come on to the market.
Firms can already buy CSPO from AAK. However, this option is only currently available for straight palm oil, which most food manufacturers do not use. Fully traceable sustainable derivatives - the kind most widely used in food products from cakes, snacks and toffee to gravy granules - are not yet available.
However, both AAK and New Britain Palm Oil (NBPO) will be able to offer traceable derivatives such as palm olein and palm stearin in 2010. NBPO will also be able to offer further sub-fractions from 2011 from a new refinery in Liverpool. AAK is also aiming to be able to offer more complex bakery fats containing palm derivatives from late 2010/early 2011.
For now, food manufacturers using derivatives have the option to buy GreenPalm certificates (currently trading at $5). While they can’t guarantee that the actual oil they are buying is from a plantation audited by the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil, they can guarantee that an equivalent tonnage has been produced sustainably - somewhere.
Asda uses GreenPalm to cover palm oil used in its restaurants, but argues that customers buying packaged foods from its stores want full traceability: “Green Palm is a good starter to move towards CSPO but we would like to see a scheme to link the oil to the product, rather than a mass balance system like GreenPalm.”
Sainsbury said: “We’re not anti-GreenPalm, but customers want our products to physically contain palm oil that can be traced back to sustainable sources.”
However, some large branded food manufacturers and smaller food retailers were using the ‘but we can’t buy sustainable derivatives yet’ argument as an excuse to do nothing, claimed the World Wildlife Fund.
Senior policy officer Adam Harrison said: “If you want traceable derivatives, it won’t happen by magic, you need to put in the legwork now. They will only be affordable when whole refineries are plugged into sustainable palm. In the meantime, you can use GreenPalm.”

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