Saturday, 6 June 2009

Marks and Spencer

The following question was recently sent by a supporter to Marks and Spencer

Comments: I fail to understand why Marks and Spencers, claiming to be one of the most ethical companies in the UK, has still not set a cut off date to stop using unsustainable palm oil from Borneo and Sumatra in its food products.. Why is this? You must be aware of the mass deforestation that is occuring on these two islands due to the rapid expansion of the unsustainable palm oil indstry? Yet unlike Sainsburys, for one, M&S has still not confirmed it will only use fully sustainable palm oil in its products by a certain cut off date. The orangutan, for one, is one the brink of extinction due to the loss of its forest habitat because of this rapacious industry. Until you re-assure your customers that you will very soon only buy sustainable palm oil (preferably NOT from either Malyasia or Indonesia) I, for one, will not buy your products.

The reply from M&S

Thank you for your e-mail.

You may have recently heard that Marks & Spencer (M&S), launched "Plan A", a business wide £200m "eco-plan" which will have an impact on every part of M&S' operations over the next five years. As a major feature in our 100-point plan, we have committed to ensuring that all of the key raw materials used in our business, come from the most sustainable source possible, in order to protect the environment and the world's natural resources.

This commitment will extend to the use of palm oil in our products and as we are predominately an own brand business, this will apply to all of our M&S branded products. We believe that ensuring the use of sustainable materials in all of our products will help to drive demand for sustainable raw materials in the marketplace, and as a result increase the supply.

We have already commenced work to ensure that we will introduce sustainable palm oil into our M&S products as soon as certified supply becomes available. We are members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and we are taking an active role in the palm oil debate by providing our input to RSPO discussions to ensure all societal issues, including the impact on the Orangutan population, are considered in the development of sustainable palm oil. Whilst we are committed to accessing sustainable palm oil as soon as possible, we also have an interest in ensuring the certification system is well considered and robust.

We are currently in the process of speaking to each of our suppliers, to ensure we have a complete understanding of palm oil use in our products. We hope to have a greater understanding of its complete use in various forms across the business in the coming months, and we will continue our work with these suppliers to introduce sustainable palm oil into our products as soon as it becomes available.

Please be reassured that we are working closely with the industry to introduce certified sustainable palm oil as soon as possible.

Thank you again for your e-mail.
Kind Regards,
Sarah Owen
Retail customer services