Oil palm plantation in Aceh on the island of Sumatra. Photo by Rhett A. Butler.
Despite a worldwide trend of companies establishing social and environmental safeguards for palm oil sourcing, some of America’s best-known brands are still failing to adopt policies to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains, concludes a updated assessment from The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Released today, the second annual Palm Oil Scorecard evaluates sourcing policies of 40 major companies that use palm oil in their products. The list ranges from fast food joints to retailers to cosmetics manufacturers.
The report finds that packaged food companies are making the most progress in establishing policies that exclude palm oil produced at the expense of tropical forests and peatlands. Companies like Nestle, Danone, Kellogg’s, Unilever, ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, and General Mills top the rankings.
Several personal care companies — notably Colgate-Palmolive, Henkel, Procter & Gamble, and L’Oreal — also score well.
The biggest laggards according to UCS are in the fast food industry and major retail chains. Only Dunkin’ Donuts and Safeway are standouts in those sectors. Domino’s, DairyQueen, Carl’s Jr, Wendy’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell all garnered a score of score on the ranking system among fast food restaurants. CVS, Walgreens, Costco, Dollar Tree, and Dollar General also received no points for their palm oil sourcing.
Some brands known for their green appeal were surprisingly low performers: Starbucks scored 10 out of a possible 100 and Burt’s Bees (0). Whole Foods’ 30 score was effectively matched by retail behemoth Walmart’s 29.
But UCS notes that today’s under-performers could become tomorrow’s leaders. For example Dunkin’ Brands jumped 70 points since scoring a 0 on the 2014 scorecard, while P&G climbed 68.
Yet there’s no guarantee of a company maintaining its position — Mondelez International, the company behind Oreo and Ritz, saw its ranking plunge since last year.
With a growing number of producers and traders also adopting zero deforestation commitments, UCS says there’s no longer any excuse for companies with weak policies. The advocacy group is therefore calling on consumers to push brands to action.
“UCS is asking consumers to tell these companies that deforestation is an unacceptable ingredient in their products,” said the group in a statement, adding that companies will also have to follow through on their commitments.
“No doubt companies are getting the message. But committing to source deforestation-free and peat-free palm oil is just a first step. Following through on these commitments and implementing the changes will make all the difference,” said UCS’s Lael Goodman. “All companies included in the Scorecard – even the high scorers – still have more work to do to protect tropical forests and reduce carbon emissions.”