Saturday, 25 July 2009

UK Government policy

Reply received by a supporter from

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)UK


Thank you for your email of 1 July to Hilary Benn about palm oil. I have been asked to reply.

The UK?s sustainable development strategy, Securing the Future, makes it clear that the Government is very conscious that increasing consumption of goods and services in the UK can have environmental and social consequences overseas. As you know, palm oil is present in a wide range of the food, cosmetic and other products that we consume, and there are serious environmental impacts associated with its production.

Defra believes that one of the best ways to deliver more sustainable patterns of consumption and production is through effective partnerships between all stakeholder groups. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a good example of this approach, involving palm oil growers, environmental organisations, and manufacturers and retailers of products containing palm oil in the development of international criteria for more sustainable palm oil production.

The RSPO has developed a set of principles and criteria for sustainable palm oil production, and has begun to implement these and certify some oil as sustainably produced.

Many of the UK?s major food manufacturers and supermarket chains are members of the RSPO, including Tesco, Asda, the Co-op, Marks & Spencers, Sainsbury?s and Waitrose, as are NGOs such as WWF and Greenpeace, and a number of biofuel companies including BP, Biofuels Corporation, Cargill BV, D1 Oils and Greenergy Biofuels. More details can be found at

Some British retailers and businesses have made commitments to sourcing products containing RSPO sustainable palm oil. Others have made announcements about initiatives to label the palm oil in their products, based on RSPO criteria. For example, The Body Shop, Sainsbury's, ASDA, M&S and United Biscuits have all made declarations that they will produce labels, and a proposed extension of the Sustainable Agriculture Network Standard to palm oil would lead to a Rainforest Alliance label.

To help improve the sustainability of the production and consumption of palm oil, the UK Government has very recently agreed to fund a 2 year project working with the RSPO to review its sustainability criteria, and work with producers and big buyers to increase take up and use of the criteria. Work is about to begin.

I hope this is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Kirsty Johnson
Customer Contact Unit

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)