Iceland has removed a prominent website reference to its plastic and palm oil pledges, after campaigners said it should be clearer the commitments were not being met.
Iceland’s ‘sustainability’ website at sustainability.iceland.co.uk greeted visitors with a screen-filling animated banner message saying: “We pledged to remove plastic packaging from our own label products by the end of 2023 – reducing our plastic packaging usage by 29% in the first two years. We promised to remove palm oil from our own label food – 450 products without palm oil as an ingredient.”
It did not go on to mention that, having removed palm oil from own label at the end of 2018, Iceland started using it again in March this year. It also made no mention of the fact Iceland has abandoned its 2023 plastic deadline.
It led to a call for the site to be updated from corporation sustainability campaign group the Changing Markets Foundation.
“Iceland should immediately stop using these banners on its marketing materials and replace them with banners saying they won’t meet their pledges,” said the group’s campaigns director Nusa Urbancic.
“If consumers keep choosing Iceland because they believe they are greener due to their commitment to phase out plastic [from own label by the end of 2023], this will be greenwashing.”
Nina Schrank, head of Greenpeace UK’s plastics campaign, said: “It is very disappointing that Iceland are going to miss these targets, and in retrospect you do have to wonder whether the entire organisation was as committed to the process as their marketing department.”
The banner message has been removed from the website since The Grocer put the comments to Iceland last week. Visitors today (26 July) are greeted with a welcome message from Iceland MD Richard Walker.
Walker first mentioned Iceland might not achieve its 2023 plastic target in November last year, while announcing a new initiative to become ‘plastic neutral’ this year by collecting and recycling waste from beaches in developing countries.
He then confirmed Iceland saw the 2023 target as “impossible” in a blog on 7 July, at the same time as revealing the supermarket was not going to meet its plastic neutral pledge either. Walker blamed setbacks in the pandemic and a lack of viable alternative materials for not being able to remove plastic from own label by the end of 2023. He said Iceland would not become plastic neutral this year because it would mean passing on costs to consumers.
It was also a blog in which Walker chose to reveal earlier this year that Iceland had started using palm oil in own label food again. He pointed to soaring prices of sunflower oil, the alternative, caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Walker has said in his blogs – which are published on Iceland’s corporate site, at a different address to the sustainability one – that the business remains committed to eliminating both plastic and palm oil in the long term. However, he has not set new deadlines.
Urbancic said: “For example, he does not say, while we will fail to completely eliminate plastic [from own label by the end of 2023], we will reduce it by 60%. This would be measurable and an honourable thing to do.”
Iceland did not provide a comment.