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

Our approach

At Waitrose & Partners, we are committed to sourcing our ingredients 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.

We believe the most effective way to stop these issues is to help build a lasting solution that transforms the market for sustainable palm oil around the world.

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

By taking this approach, we can promote 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.

About our supply 

We guarantee that 100% of the oil and palm-based ingredients in Waitrose & Partners own-brand products are certified sustainable to standards set by the RSPO. This multi-stakeholder organisation convenes suppliers from all across the palm oil supply chain to set and strengthen standards. Its mission is to make sustainable palm oil the norm.

See how our palm oil sourcing breaks down in the table below.

Visit the RSPO website for more information about their different types of certification. 

Graph of Waitrose & Partners sustainable palm oil sourcing figures

We report annually on our palm oil usage in our John Lewis Partnership Corporate Responsibility Report. Our aim is to source 100% physically certified palm-based ingredients in all our products by 2020. For any remaining palm ingredients, we purchase RSPO credits that support smallholder farmers.

Buying credits supports the production of responsible palm oil, while we work with suppliers to physically certify the remaining palm-based ingredients in our products. We have done this for our palm footprint each year since 2012.

Working with others
Sourcing sustainable certified palm oil in our products is an essential step to help transform the industry, but we know that this alone isn’t enough. Because of this, we work collectively to create systemic 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 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. A recent 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 who 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 be done to arrive at a future where sustainable production and sourcing of palm oil has become ‘business as usual’ the world over. We are committed to working with our suppliers and others to achieve this goal and are currently developing new targets to take us beyond our 2020 commitments.
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. However, we do not believe that eliminating palm oil and palm-based ingredients from 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 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 for biodiversity or for the climate. This is because palm oil produces about 4-10 times more oil per hectare than any comparable crop, and so is very efficient.

A 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 in other tropical and biodiverse areas.

Similarly, switching to other oils would not help address human rights issues in the palm oil industry. 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.

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, over 4 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.