A new Greenpeace report has criticized a number of companies for their lack of progress on sustainable palm oil sourcing. It reveals that a number of major corporations are failing to meet their own targets, at a high environmental cost.
The palm oil industry is one of the largest contributors to deforestation in some of the most biodiversity rainforest regions on Earth. The scale of the damage comes from the sheer size of the industry. Palm oil can be found in around half of consumer goods on supermarket shelves.
Many of the corporations involved in the industry have reacted to pressure from stakeholders by declaring ambitious goals for sustainable palm oil sourcing. These goals are aimed at eliminating deforestation in their supply chains and would mark a major step towards protecting the rainforests of Indonesia and other countries. However, this Greenpeace report, that scored twelve major corporations on their progress, has revealed that the majority are failing to implement changes. Only two of the twelve companies, Ferrero and Nestle, are on track to meet their goals of ending deforestation in their supply chains. For the rest, making this a reality remains far off.
The task is undoubtedly a challenge. Even simply gaining an understanding of the structure of a supply chain requires substantial investment. As the report states “Most companies are unable even to say how much of their palm oil comes from suppliers that comply with their own sourcing standards.” However, companies have achieved ambitious supply chain projects before. For instance with conflict minerals, where a greater than 80% conflict-free sourcing certification has been accomplished.
The reasons for this stalled progress are complex. It is worth pointing out, as one of the report’s authors did, that “almost everyone we spoke to clearly has good intentions…— there are companies out there that don’t have policies and won’t speak to us — but this group is working to address this challenge.” However, some of the companies are simply not putting in sufficient funds for real improvement. Reports like this show that third-party organizations are willing to invest the time and resources to ensure that companies are acting on their targets. Organizations that fail to make their targets risk public backlash. Once a public goal is set, the stakes are raised for implementation.