New Union of Concerned Scientists Report Shows Industry Leaders and Laggards in Palm Oil Policies

The results are in, and the grades for the palm oil commitments of America’s biggest brands are not good.

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists, Donuts, Deodorant, and Deforestation: Scoring America’s Top Brands on Their Palm Oil Commitments, comprehensively examines the ten largest companies in three major sectors — packaged foods, personal care, and fast food — assigning a score to their findings.

The UCS found a handful of leaders — like Unilever, Nestle, and L’Oreal — and an overabundance of laggards. The worst performing sector, by far, is the fast food industry. Exactly none of the ten largest fast food companies scored high enough to achieve the “full commitment” badge. Only one, Subway, achieved a rank of “some commitment.” McDonald’s earned a “weak commitment,” and the eight others scored zeroes across the board, and were pegged with having “no commitment” at all.

Dunkin’ Brands, Dairy Queen, Burger King, and Starbucks were amongst those slow-to-adapt companies piled at the bottom of the palm oil commitment rankings.

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The UCS study assigned a numerical score out of a possible 20 points across five categories that reflect a company’s commitment to responsibly sourcing palm oil. These categories include: whether the palm oil sourced is deforestation-free, if it’s peat-free, how traceable the palm oil is to its source, the companies’ transparency of palm oil purchasing, and whether or not the companies were taking early action to reduce their use of unsustainable palm oil.

As you can see in the chart above of the ten fast food companies, only Subway and McDonald’s earned any score at all, a modest 38 and 21.1 points respectively. The rest have yet to address their palm oil supply in any real way.

There is some good news in the report. As a handful of leaders in the package foods sector prove, deforestation-free, peat-free, responsible palm oil sourcing is possible.

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If you’ve been following along the Forest Heroes campaign, you might wonder what’s up with Kellogg’s? We recently celebrated the company’s announcement of a fully-traceable deforestation- and peat-free palm oil policy. The announcement is still so fresh, that it wasn’t reflected in the UCS scores which were finalized in mid-January before Kellogg’s announced its updated commitments. Expect Kellogg’s to rise in the ranks in any follow-up report. 

Companies like Nestle and Unilever have created a template for how others in the food industry, packaged or fast foods, can ensure that their use of palm oil isn’t contributing to the rapid deforestation and destruction of carbon-rich peatlands in Malaysia and Indonesia, and further endangering orangutans and the 400 remaining Sumatran tigers. The industry leaders have also found out how much good will and positive press can be created by strong palm oil commitments. 

On March 7, 2014
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