Palm oil report reveals saints and sinners in Aussie companies

AAP : from Herald Sun: November 22, 2011

AUSTRALIAN companies are making progress in promoting the sale of sustainable palm oil but more needs to be done, a survey has found.

Conservation group World Wildlife Fund (WWF) compiled the Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard 2011 to draw attention to the devastation caused to tropical forests by farming palm oil - and the effectiveness of its certified sustainable alternative, known as CSPO.

WWF Australia's director of conservation Dr Gilly Llewellyn said clearing forests to farm palm oil destroyed the habitat of many endangered species such as Sumatran tigers, of which only 400 lived in the wild.

Released on Tuesday, the report ranks more than 130 big retailers and manufacturers in Australia, Japan and Europe, the leading markets for CSPO.

Leading the way locally was Woolworths, which collected seven out of nine points, while Coles and Arnott's were given a score of 4.5.

Businesses were judged on a range of factors, including their use of and commitment to CSPO, transparency and the volume of palm oil used.

The companies ranged from not using CSPO at all, to using somewhere between 0 to 25 per cent. But all had committed to using CSPO by 2015.

Dr Llewellyn said Woolworths scored well because CSPO was already in its supply chains.

But other Australian companies such as Peerless Holdings and Snack Brands only scored a one, due to the lack of transparency.

Dr Llewellyn said the issue was how and where palm oil was produced, with just 10 per cent of it being produced sustainably and only half of that being bought.

"This an urgent problem. The clearing of tropical forests for oil palm production can be very damaging," she said.

"Deforestation takes away precious habitat and makes a major contribution to carbon pollution caused by human activity."

Consumption of the vegetable oil, which is derived from tropical oil palm trees, is predicted to balloon from 50 million tonnes annually to at least 77 million tonnes in 2050.

WWF said it wanted businesses to be more transparent.

"If we want growers to act responsibly, buyers of palm oil need to show what their future demand for certified sustainable palm oil is going to be," Dr Llewellyn said.

French cosmetics company L'Oreal and confectionery giant Cadbury scored nine out of a possible nine points, while global manufacturing brands Unilever, Nestle and H J Heinz and retailer IKEA all scored eight out of nine.