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In this fifth edition of a decade-long series, the new WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard examines 173 major retailers, consumer goods manufacturers and food service companies from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. Companies range from iconic brands such as Carrefour, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Nestlé, Tesco, and Walmart, among others. As we enter 2020 and a new decade, this Scorecard has reset the bar for companies with the expectation that they take commensurate, accelerated action in response to the planet’s escalating environmental and climate challenges. Only one company, the consumer goods manufacturer Ferrero, maker of the iconic product Nutella, scored over 20 points (out of the maximum 22), sending an encouraging signal to the rest of the industry that sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil is achievable.
Expanding on its previous Scorecards, WWF measured not only how companies performed on basic steps such as using 100% sustainable palm oil in their own supply chains, but also additional actions that prove a company is truly acting responsibly. This includes actions to protect and positively benefit smallholders, communities and biodiversity on the ground in the landscapes most at risk from irresponsible palm oil expansion. The Scorecard reveals that only about 1/4 of assessed companies are investing in on-the-ground initiatives in areas at risk for unsustainable palm oil development. WWF calls for more companies to follow suit and take such actions that proactively contribute to a global solution.
“Given the challenges faced by our planet today, coupled with the devastating effect that unsustainable palm oil has had, companies need to do more than simply reduce their own supply chain risk,” said WWF Palm Oil Lead Elizabeth Clarke. “As we enter 2020, companies need to accept their responsibility to support sustainable palm oil, including taking actions that are bigger, bolder and faster than ever before as part of a pro-environment agenda.”
Even on the essential actions we expect companies to take, including sourcing 100% certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), the results are disappointing. Overall, less than half of Scorecard companies source 100% CSPO. While just over two-thirds of Scorecard companies have committed to source 100% CSPO by 2020, of those only around 60% have managed to achieve this goal.
Even more disappointing is that nearly one-quarter of companies still have made no commitments at all on sustainable palm oil. This includes a substantial number of companies from Asia. While Asian markets have previously lagged behind on sustainability, WWF has included Singaporean, Indonesian and Malaysian brands in this global edition of the Scorecard for the first time with the expectation that they start to close this sustainability gap.
For Malaysia, the results were just as dismal, with only one company scoring in the scorecard with others declining to participate. WWF-Malaysia’s Sustainable Palm Oil Manager, Benjamin Loh, said, “We believe that Malaysian companies can be drivers of change to develop solutions for and source 100% CSPO, but they need to step up. We applaud companies who are taking extra steps to work with others in their value chain to create and support models for sustainable production and best practices; however, this should be the norm rather than the exception in the industry. Additionally, companies who are lagging should be pressured to adopt CSPO by Governments, financial institutions and consumers.”
Consumers should also realise that they have the purchasing power and can collectively form a strong voice to demand more sustainable products to be made available on the shelves. As such, WWF-Malaysia urges consumers to play a bigger role in sustainable consumption by exercising purchasing power towards buying CSPO. When there is a demand for products containing sustainable palm oil, there will be a higher likelihood that producers and manufacturers will increase their production.
2020 is also a crucial year for nature conservation, where the world will have the opportunity to act. Countries must submit their emission cutting plans in line with the 1.5°C target of the Paris Agreement; a first ever global treaty on the protection and sustainable use of marine life in the high seas will be agreed; and new 2030 targets for the conservation of nature and biodiversity will be set.
“The POBS is a vital component of WWF’s ambitious New Deal for Nature and People that sets nature on the path to recovery by 2030. With nature under unprecedented pressure, we must act together in 2020 to secure a sustainable future for people and planet. We expect companies to rise to this challenge,” ended Clarke.
WWF will give palm oil buyers the chance to demonstrate that they are taking the bold action that is needed when it publishes another edition of the Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard at the end of 2020.