By Anders Lorenzen
In a further bid to improve their environmental credentials, the supermarket chain Iceland has said that they would remove palm oil from their own brand products by the end of this year.
Iceland says that their decision is based on the fact that palm oil is one of the world’s biggest causes of deforestation, and so poses a significant threat to a number of species already facing extinction. They point out that in Indonesia and Malaysia, where palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest drivers of deforestation, many species are being threatened with extinction, including the orangutan.
The orangutan population has more than halved in the last 15 years. The species is now critically endangered with only 70,000 to 100,000 individuals remaining. This, the company explained, was the guiding factor in their decision. Further, they said that they did not buy into the notion of sustainable palm oil, and the only way to stop deforestation caused by surges in palm oil demand was to get out of it altogether. They said that until the industry could convince them that palm oil was not adding to deforestation, they would ban its use in their own products.
The company says that their Head Chef, Neil Nugent, has been working in the Iceland development kitchen to remove and replace palm oil with oils and fats that do not destroy the rainforest. They say they are also working closely with suppliers to ensure that changes to their recipes do not impact the cost (or taste) of their own brand products. Iceland says these efforts reduce the demand for palm oil by more than 500 tonnes per year.
Iceland’s statement is naturally something that has pleased Greenpeace. John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace UK said: “Iceland has concluded that removing palm oil is the only way it can offer its customers a guarantee that its products do not contain palm oil from forest destruction. This decision is a direct response to the palm oil industry’s failure to clean up its act. As global temperatures rise from burning forests, and populations of endangered species continue to dwindle, companies using agricultural commodities like palm oil will come under increasing pressure to clean up their supply chains.” Greenpeace has for long campaigned against the destructive nature of palm oil production, highlighting that in the last 16 years 100,000 orangutans have disappeared from the wild, with palm oil largely to blame.
Earlier this year Iceland also became the first UK supermarket to pledge to eliminate plastics in all of their own brand products within five years.