Last updated: March 2016
Rainforest Foundation and Ethical Consumer Palm Oil Campaign
Ethical Consumer has ranked companies' practices and policies in relation to their palm oil sourcing for the Rainforest Foundation/Ethical Consumer Research Association (ECRA) palm oil campaign.
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ECRA has sourced the information used to generate company scores from companies' Corporate Social Responsibility communications, responses to our questionnaires and questions of clarification and/or their latest Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). ACOPs for the year 2014 were published by the RSPO in November 2015. If more up to date information was provided or found it was taken into account.
Companies are scored out of 100 possible points, with 100 being the best score.
Companies that use neither palm oil (CPO), palm kernel oil (PKO) nor palm derivatives score 100. We refer to these three types of ingredients collectively as 'palm products'.
Please note that the final score is divided by five to give a mark out of 20. A final mark of 0-7 is worst (Don't Buy), 8-13 is middle (Cautious Buy), and 14-20 is best (Best Buy). This ranking is in relation to palm oil practice only and does not take into account other practices and policies of the companies concerned.
Companies that use palm products or are in a sector where they are generally used and do not provide information to the contrary, make no substantial policy statements, provide no evidence of sourcing certified palm products and are not RSPO members score zero.
See our company research for more information on individual rankings.
60 marks are available for companies' actual palm product use. Of these 60 marks, up to 40 are awarded to companies for the proportion of their palm products sourced through RSPO-approved mechanisms for the trade in sustainable palm products.*
The above certified mechanisms must apply to the companies' CPO, PKO and palm oil derivatives used. If it only applies to one of these, the mark out of 40 is divided by three.
Up to 20 additional marks are awarded for the proportion of palm products used that is from a Segregated supply chain.
Many smaller companies providing a greener alternative are not members of the RSPO and are not reporting figures. If they have specifically avoided CPO/PKO, or only sourced certified organic CPO/PKO, and have showed evidence of avoiding uncertified palm derivatives, two-thirds of the 60 marks can be gained.
Certified organic palm products receive the same scores as segregated RSPO-certified palm products.
10 marks are available for each of the following:
- Companies whose RSPO ACOP or CSR information in relation to palm products applies to the whole company group.
- Companies that disclose their suppliers (or 5 marks for partial disclosure).
- Other positive initiatives, including transparency of ingredients information beyond legal requirements, engaging with own supply chain to improve practice around palm products, or using only certified organic palm products (or 5 marks for limited engagement or sourcing some organic palm products, or for recently joining the RSPO in the absence of any other scoring information).
- Companies that disclose separately the actual volumes used of CPO, PKO and palm oil derivatives (one- or two-thirds of marks if disclosed volumes for only one or two of these palm products)
5 or 10 marks are deducted if the information provided by the company is inconsistent, or incomplete, or very unclear.
Comments on research
Changes to methodology
This research was an update to the previous Rainforest Foundation/Ethical Consumer ranking conducted in 2013, which used 2011-12 ACOPs where available. A cleaning section was added in 2014, which used 2012-13 ACOPs where available. In these previous ACOPs, several companies had not given figures for volumes of PKO or derivatives in their ACOPs, and it was assumed that they did not use them. This time however, figures were given, suggesting the previous assumption was in error. This time it was assumed in the non-food sectors that palm derivatives were used unless stated otherwise.
Some changes have been made to the methodology since the previous research. Previously 10 marks were available for a proven commitment to reduce the use of palm products. Several NGOs argue that pushing companies to alternative oils could have even more negative impacts. To reflect this argument, these marks were no longer given. An extra 10 marks were instead made available for the proportion of palm oil that was certified as segregated, in addition to the 10 marks that were previously available for this.
Also, many companies were previously given 10 marks for positive initiatives if they labelled palm oil in food products. As this became a legal requirement in the EU in December 2014, it was no longer counted as a positive initiative.
Companies that went down a bracket:
Many companies previously scored marks for a commitment to reduce use of palm oil, but these marks were no longer available. The fact that more marks were allocated for 'proportion segregated' also affected some companies negatively. However, only a few dropped down a bracket, eg from Best Buy to Cautious Buy, or Cautious Buy to Don't Buy.
Avon – did not report figures in ACOP for CPO or PKO this time.
Lilly's Eco Clean – did not disclose suppliers or volumes this time.
Lush – did not disclose volumes this time.
Molton – more accurate figures were available this time.
Urtekram - did not disclose suppliers or volumes this time.
Companies that went up a bracket:
Many more companies improved their scores, reflecting overall increases in proportions of palm products that were certified, and segregated.
Faith in Nature
Frank Roberts & Sons
Green & Blacks
Johnson & Johnson
Procter & Gamble
As well as information on palm derivatives in the supply chain increasing, so has the proportion of palm derivatives that are RSPO certified. However, many companies still make misleading statements which refer to palm oil but neglect to mention derivatives.
Comparison to other scorecards
The WWF, Greenpeace and the UCS (Union of Concerned Scientists) also produce palm oil scorecards, which differ from this guide in a number of ways. These other scorecards focus on the larger global players, whereas we also include some of the smaller UK companies who are providing greener alternatives. The WWF and the UCS include marks for commitments and policies, whereas we only score for current practices. Our scores are focussed on the proportion of certified and segregated palm a company uses, and avoidance of palm. The UCS and Greenpeace are focussed on deforestation, with the latest Greenpeace ranking specifically looking at the practical implementation of companies' 'no deforestation' policies. See their methodologies for more information.
See our in-depth company research for notes on individual company rankings.