Government makes sustainable palm oil pledge

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The UK government has published a national statement on palm oil and announced it is to move to 100% sustainable palm oil in the food it buys by the end of 2015.

The change in government buying standards will apply to all central government food and catering services, and comes as the palm oil industry is convening at the annual International Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which this year is held in Singapore between 29 and 31 October.

In a joint statement with retailers, manufacturers and charities, the government also said the UK overall would aim to be 100% sustainable in all the palm and palm kernel oil it used by 2015.

“People want to know that the products they are using are not contributing to deforestation and climate change, and many UK businesses are already starting to make changes,” said environment minister Richard Benyon. “Producers, manufacturers and charities will continue working together to speed up the move to 100% sustainable palm oil in everyday products.”

The government will also set up advice and information services for UK businesses, including a helpline, websites, newsletter and seminars.

The Food and Drink Federation’s director of sustainability, Andrew Kuyk, said many food and drink manufacturers already had long-standing commitments to sourcing sustainable palm oil in place. “The national statement is an important step towards a wider reassurance for consumers that the products they enjoy contain oil from environmentally friendly sources,” he added.

The WWF, which has long campaigned on sustainable palm oil, said the government’s national statement was “significant” but should have gone further, particularly in setting a specific timeframe for industry commitments.

In the national statement, the government says its agreement with industry marks “a point in time” that will be part of an ongoing monitoring process. “The commitments will be regularly revisited and monitored by the UK goverment together with stakeholders. We will work together to discuss progress, celebrate success and ensure that all parties remain ambitious.”

But the WWF said this was not enough. “The new national statement with industry associations lacks the necessary time-bound commitments and only talks about ‘working towards’ sustainable palm oil by 2015,” it said.

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