Biscuits and palm oil







Environmental campaigners today welcome the results of a new survey which reveals that many of the UK's leading biscuit manufacturers are responding positively to the ecological and humanitarian threats posed by the proliferation of palm oil production.

Many of the biggest names in biscuits including M&S, Sainsbury's and United Biscuits, makers of the some of the UK's most popular biscuits including McVitie's Digestive and Penguin have made the ground-breaking commitment to reduce the amount of palm oil in their biscuits.

In the survey carried out by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer magazine over 50 of the UK's biggest biscuit manufacturers were surveyed on their use of palm oil or its derivatives. 

The survey was carried out in response to the increasing threat that palm oil production is posing to the world’s rainforests, and consequently, to the people that rely on these forests for their livelihoods. The survey results form the latest part of RFUK’s ‘Appetite for Destruction?’ consumer guide to palm oil content in products, which already includes chocolate and bread products.

Having destroyed vast areas of forest in countries including Indonesia, which is home to orang utans, palm oil companies are now planning to expand into the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Africa, home to lowland gorillas and other threatened primates. Palm oil companies are also partly responsible for the recent devastating forest fires in Sumatra.

Simon Counsell, Executive Director of The Rainforest Foundation UK said:

“UK biscuit manufacturers and retailers are showing that it is possible to outright reduce the use of palm oil, which is going to have to occur globally if large areas of Africa’s rainforests are to be saved from conversion to palm plantations.”

The top scoring companies in the survey include the Co-op, M&S, Sainsbury's, Waitrose and United Biscuits. 

However, a divide is now emerging on the issue of palm oil between these more progressive companies and those bottom-scoring, mostly American-based companies including Asda/Walmart, PepsiCo and Kraft, makers of Ritz and Oreo biscuits. 

Leonie Nimmo researcher at Ethical Consumer said:

“This survey clearly shows that environmental campaigning is having a positive impact on the palm oil policies of many companies which is something we wholeheartedly support. Consumers now have a choice in buying biscuits which are reducing the risks to both people and wildlife.”

“We now call on those bottom scoring companies including Asda and Kraft to follow the lead of United Biscuits and commit to reducing the amount of palm oil in their biscuits.”




Editor’s Notes


1 The full product guide can be seen here:


2 RFUK and Ethical Consumer’s collaborative guide Appetite for Destruction was launched this Easter with information on chocolate Easter eggs. Additional categories of products are being added to the guide as product sectors are progressively surveyed. It is available here: 


3 Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products and companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014.


4 According to the recent RFUK report Seeds of Destruction, one million acres of rainforest in the Congo Basin is currently being developed by palm oil producers, and with 284 million acres of suitable soil in the region, developers are actively seeking large sites now. 


It also details the huge impacts that the current and future development will have on the 500,000

indigenous people living in the endangered rainforest. 


For the full report and the responses of palm oil developers active in the Congo basin prior to the publication of the report visit: 



5 Methodology


Ethical Consumer has ranked companies’ practices and policies in relation to their palm oil sourcing for the joint Rainforest Foundation UK and Ethical Consumer palm oil campaign. For a full

breakdown of the methodology adopted to conduct this research, please visit: