Sainsbury’s to Use Sustainable Palm Oil in Mainstream Biscuits

digestive biscuit.jpg

06 Oct 2009 --- The supermarket sells over 300 million digestivs and rich teas every year, meaning customers will be consuming sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), on a level never before reached in the UK.

06 Oct 2009 --- The UK's favourite biscuits are about to undergo a transformation as Sainsbury's becomes the first retailer to make digestives and rich teas using certified sustainable palm oil.

The supermarket sells over 300 million of these biscuits every year, meaning customers will be consuming sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), on a level never before reached in the UK.

Sustainable palm oil became available for the first time last year and Sainsbury's was the only retailer to purchase the oil at scale, using it first for basics fish fingers before rolling it out through the rest of the frozen fish range as well as most own brand bars of soap. Sainsbury's remains the only retailer to have purchased substantial volumes of sustainable palm oil.

Fiona Wheatley, Sainsbury's sustainability manager, said: "Digestives and rich teas are among the biggest-selling biscuits in the country, which is why we have decided to make them the next target for our sustainable palm oil programme. By prioritising those products that use the greatest volume of palm oil, we positively influence the way the oil is grown and traded internationally.

"We are firmly committed to the use of certified sustainable palm oil and we're currently looking for further products in which we can use it. Sales of basics fish fingers have risen by over 90 per cent over the past year, and one of the reasons for this is that customers respond favourably to the sustainability of the product."

Tony Juniper, special adviser to the Prince's Rainforests Project, said: "Oil palm cultivation has in recent years emerged as one of the major causes of tropical rainforest clearance. Simply banning this product is neither feasible nor logical, however. Developing countries and their farmers need income and the world needs vegetable oil. It is vital we find ways to produce the food the world needs while at the same time keeping the forests standing. Sainsbury's is helping to demonstrate how it is possible to source more sustainably produced palm oil and this is a very welcome development."

Adam Harrison, Senior Policy Officer at WWF, added: "WWF welcomes these further moves by Sainsbury's to source more sustainable palm oil.   Palm oil production is one of the main causes of deforestation around the world and is a direct threat to species like the orang-utan and the Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant.  Forest loss is also a major contributor to climate change. 

"Sourcing from RSPO certified sources is the most credible way to ensure that companies that buy palm oil are not adding to these global problems.  By extending the range of its products that contain certified sustainable palm oil, Sainsbury's has shown that companies can move from talking about sustainability in this area to putting it into practice.  WWF hopes that this action will encourage other users of palm oil in their efforts to do the same."

Palm oil can be found in thousands of products on supermarket shelves (it is one of a number of oils that can be generically labelled as ‘vegetable oil'), but many consumers are unaware of how common its use is. For this reason, Sainsbury's is the only supermarket to have changed labelling on its food products so that they name palm oil (and other vegetable oils) specifically*.

In addition to being the only retailer to buy the oil in large volumes, Sainsbury's was also the first retailer to set a target date by which to switch to 100 per cent certified sustainable palm oil, aiming to reach this goal by 2014, ahead of the rest of the industry.

Fiona added: "We need to support the workers, farmers, families and communities that rely on palm oil, while making sure that tropical forests are protected for everyone's future benefit.

"In order to achieve this, we are dependent not only on widespread take up of certification at plantation level, but also adoption of certified sustainable palm oil sourcing by the companies that trade and process palm oil."

Sainsbury's support of sustainable palm oil is such that the company's CEO, Justin King is a member of the Prince's Rainforest Project (PRP) steering group. The project was set up by HRH The Prince of Wales and seeks to 'make rainforests worth more alive than dead'. The PRP team works with Governments, businesses and non-profit organisations to find solutions to deforestation.

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