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Hot topic: Businesses using palm oil

A report published by the WWF listed the British businesses failing to meet commitments to only sell products containing palm oil from ‘sustainable’ sources

Having pledged to phase out harmful palm deforestation by 2020, many household names are still missing sustainability targets. Forty-one of the 173 companies the WWF contacted failed to respond to its recent survey, and 30 of those that did ranked low on the Foundation’s palm oil buyers scorecard. How can HR help to push this agenda forward as part of CSR?

Paula den Hartog, sector lead palm oil at Rainforest Alliance, says:

"UK businesses should ask their suppliers for RSPO-certified palm oil. This would increase the demand for certified palm oil and ensure producers that are making the changes and the investments are getting returns for their efforts. This will stimulate other producers to go for certification as their efforts will be rewarded.

"Businesses should also talk to their clients and consumers about certified palm oil to raise awareness that there are sustainable palm oil options on the market, rather than banning or trying to ban the use of palm oil.

"If businesses continue to use unsustainable palm oil it will expose them to increased risks in the future.

"If the industry continues to pursue unsustainable production methods this could lead to destabilisation and supply shortages in sourcing areas, further deforestation, species decline, biodiversity collapse, habitat loss, reputational risks and a much larger climate footprint."

Fay Richards, global communications manager Europe and Africa at the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), says:

"I think we all know there are negative environmental and social impacts with conventionally-produced palm oil. The biggest implication for UK businesses using unsustainable palm oil, depending on how they’re involved or what types of oil they’re using, would be the deforestation of more land space.

"In order for HR to push the sustainable palm oil agenda they need to think about the social perspective. So they should not only question if their companies’ standards have the right criteria or what their carbon footprint is like, they should think about human and labour rights.

"If you want to be an ethical company in terms of your labour rights you have to check that in terms of everything that you use. While the use of unsustainable palm oil might not be affecting your employees directly, it could be affecting others along the supply chain."

Check back tomorrow for part two of this hot topic

This piece appears in the March 2020 print issue. Subscribe today to have all our latest articles delivered right to your desk