The Co-operative Group has become the largest UK supermarket to certify all of its palm oil use as sustainable.
The retailer is purchasing accredited GreenPalm certificates from a co-operative of smallholders who are producing sustainable palm oil, accredited by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
The premium the smallholders receive helps them to build capacity for further production of sustainable palm oil.
Palm oil, which is used in modern food products, such as biscuits, pies and ready meals is one of the largest drivers of global deforestation, with Malaysia and Indonesia, which have some of the richest rainforests on the planet, accounting for 90% of production worldwide. These rainforests provide refuge for endangered species such as the orang-utan, the Sumatran tiger, elephants and rhinos. Further deforestation on Indonesian and Malaysian islands (Borneo, Sarawak and Sumatra) will push these species closer to extinction.
As part of its groundbreaking Ethical Plan launched earlier this year, The Co-operative committed to be a leading UK retailer on forest protection, and to move its palm oil sourcing to a sustainable footing by the end of 2011.
The retailer has achieved its target ahead of schedule, meaning that 4,729 tonnes of palm oil used annually will be certified as sustainable via one of the four certification systems agreed by the RSPO.
The Co-operative has also been working to increase the number of its own-brand products that contain fully traceable, certified sustainable palm oil, aiming to ensure all palm oil used as an ingredient in The Co-operative brand products come from this system by 2015. This move will further help customers of The Co-operative Food stores to make ethical and sustainable choices in store. It currently has 81 own-brand products that contain fully traceable, sustainable palm oil.
Sean Toal, Acting Chief Executive, The Co-operative Food, said: “Deforestation and the loss of natural habitat for the orang-utan and other endangered species are major issues, but, as a consumer-owned retailer, we are determined to play our part in supporting sustainable solutions.”