100% of the palm oil used in Waitrose & Partners food is certified sustainable by by the RSPO

Our approach

At the John Lewis Partnership, we are committed to sourcing our raw materials sustainably and ethically. 100% of the palm oil and palm-based ingredients in our own-brand products are certified to sustainable standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). 

For a long time, palm oil production has been associated with negative social and environmental consequences, from deforestation to worker exploitation, and we are deeply concerned about these impacts and committed to helping to stop them.

Alongside leading environmental organisations, such as the WWF and IUCN, we believe that the production and sourcing of palm oil can and must be done sustainably, and that one of the most impactful ways to stop deforestation is to help build a lasting solution that transforms the market for sustainable palm oil around the world.

That’s why we work actively with others along the palm-oil supply chain to source certified sustainable palm oil for our own products, and to support wholesale change towards a sustainable industry, both in the UK and globally.

By taking this approach, we can grow the wider adoption of responsible sourcing practices and incentivise palm oil producers to adopt higher ethical and sustainability standards. This helps drive improvements that protect people, forests and biodiversity in the countries and places where oil palm is grown.

We recognise that there is a lot more to do and that, in the meantime, tropical forests remain under threat. This is why we’re supporting the indigenous Mului community in Indonesian Borneo to protect and restore their tropical forests.

About our footprint 

We guarantee that 100% of the oil and palm-based ingredients in Waitrose and John Lewis own-brand products are certified sustainable to standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

You can see how our palm oil sourcing breaks down in the table below.

Visit the RSPO website for more information about the different types of certification and how its leading standards are set transparently by businesses and environmental organisations working across the palm oil industry.

Graph of Waitrose & Partners sustainable palm oil sourcing figures

We report annually on our palm oil usage in the John Lewis Partnership Ethics & Sustainability Report. Our 2020 target was to source 100% physically certified palm-based ingredients in all our products and we have almost achieved this goal with 99.3% being physically sourced in that year.

For any remaining palm ingredients, we purchase specific RSPO credits that support smallholder growers for whom palm oil is often their principal source of income. Buying credits supports certified smallholders to grow more responsibly and to improve their agricultural practices, yields and livelihoods.

Working with others
Sourcing sustainable certified palm oil in our products is an essential step to help transform the industry, but we know there is more to do. Because of this, we work collectively to create change beyond our own supply chains.

Since 2006, we’ve been a member of the RSPO, and via our membership of the Retailers’ Palm Oil Group, we have a representative on the RSPO Board of Governors. We also participate in the work of the UK Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Through these collaborative groups, we actively work to strengthen international standards and institutions for certified sustainable palm oil, and to expand their uptake. An important success is the updated set of rules agreed by the RSPO in November 2018 that ban deforestation, protect carbon-rich peatlands from development and strengthen the rights of workers and local communities.

Waitrose & Partners is also a member of the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, a group of companies working together to remove deforestation and exploitation from palm oil production. As a part of this coalition, we want the palm oil importers (who bring it into the country and have the greatest power to influence all palm growers) to be held accountable to their own zero-deforestation commitments. Our suppliers must declare to us which companies import their palm oil so that we can ensure their policies and commitments align with ours.

Looking to the future
We know that, despite all of these measures, there will always be more work to do to arrive at a future where sustainable production and sourcing of palm oil becomes 'business as usual’ everywhere. We are committed to working with our suppliers and others to achieve this goal.

The John Lewis Partnership has committed to sourcing all of its key raw materials sustainably by 2025, including palm oil.

Alternatives to palm oil
As required by labelling standards, we clearly differentiate between types of oils in the ingredients list of our products, including palm oil. We have done this since 2006. 

We do not believe that eliminating palm oil and palm-based ingredients from all products is the best way to solve the problems that are associated with the industry. This is a view shared by many leading conservation organisations such as the WWF and the Orangutan Land Trust.

The latest evidence suggests that the outcome of eliminating palm oil from products and replacing them with other vegetable oils would simply displace tropical deforestation to new locations, resulting in little or no overall benefit to biodiversity or for the climate. This is because palm oil produces about 4-10 times more oil per hectare than any comparable crop, which is exceptionally efficient.

A global switch to using less productive oil crops would require more land overall to meet the world’s demand for vegetable oils, and could cause at least as much deforestation and clearance in other tropical and biodiverse areas.

Most of the certified sustainable palm oil produced is sold in Europe or North America, but together these only account for around 11% of global palm consumption. Because of this, removing palm oil from products wouldn’t lead to changes in its production in countries such as Indonesia or Malaysia. Instead, palm oil would be sold in other markets that may place lower or no ethical and sustainability demands on the way that it is produced. Similarly, switching to other oils would also not help address human rights issues in the palm oil industry.

Millions of people and smallholder farmers work in the palm oil sector, which plays an important role in economic development and the reduction of poverty. In Indonesia and Malaysia, more than four million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry.