Aldi: did source 100% RSPO-certified palm oil for all its food items in the UK, however this did not cover non-food items. It aimed to have non-food items covered by RSPO by the end of 2018.
Asda: Asda’s figures, presented on its website, stated 99.8% of its palm oil was through RSPO.
Co-op: 100% of palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 53% segregated.
Iceland: In April 2018, frozen food retailer Iceland announced that, by the end of 2018, all its own-branded products will no longer contain palm oil. Richard Walker, Iceland Managing Director said, “Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’. We don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil available to retailers, so we are giving consumers a choice about what they buy.”
Lidl: stated that it aimed to have achieved 100% RSPO-certified palm oil by the end of 2017 for own-branded products. However, its ACOP only presented figures for its German operations, therefore it was not possible to verify its claims.
Marks & Spencer: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 51% segregated. Company gained best rating due to additional positive initiatives: it expected zero deforestation commitments to apply to all the palm oil produced or traded by importers and it asked its suppliers to report annually on where their palm oil came from.
Morrisons: 98% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 45% through a segregated mechanism.
Sainsbury’s: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 60% segregated.
Tesco (UK operations only): 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 68% segregated.
Waitrose: 100% palm oil products certified by the RSPO and 64% segregated. Company gained best rating due to additional positive initiatives: Buying Greenpalm certificates from smallholder projects; ‘zero deforestation’ commitment; traceability to mills.
Booths, Ocado, Spar: No public policies
In August 2016, the Government published ‘Childhood obesity: A plan for action’. The commitment – to be overseen by Public Health England (PHE) challenges all sectors of the food industry to reduce by 20% the level of sugar in all of the categories that contribute most to children’s sugar intake, by 2020, starting with a 5% reduction by August 2017.
The eight categories are biscuits; breakfast cereals; chocolate confectionery; ice cream, lollies and sorbets; puddings; sweet spreads / sauces; sweet confectionery; and yogurts / fromage frais.
In May 2018, PHE released its first report into the industry’s efforts, showing that the food industry has failed to cut sugar by 5%. The results varied across different food categories, with sweet spreads, yogurts, and breakfast cereals achieving the reduction. However very little or no sugar reduction was achieved across biscuits and chocolate bars. Puddings have actually become sweeter.
The Guardian reported “By contrast with the voluntary 5% sugar reduction in foods, the tough measure taken against sugary drinks in the form of the sugar tax is getting results.”
The PHE report said that sugar has been reduced by 11% in soft drinks and the average calories in a single drink are down by 6%.
Of the big four supermarkets Tesco has cut sugar content across the largest number of categories, including soft drinks. For example, it has reformulated 49 soft drinks products, reducing the average sugar content from 9.2 g to 4.5 g sugar per 100 ml – a staggering 47.8% sugar reduction across the range. PHE said this meant that by “October 2017, 23,000 tonnes of sugar were removed from customer diets”.
Morrisons has reduced sugar content across six categories, and Asda, seven.
Sainsbury’s appears to have reduced sugar content in two categories.
PHE said “Work is continuing to move forward in other areas of the wider reformulation programme which will ultimately lead to a broader programme covering more areas of concern in relation to UK diets and the public’s health. This work includes the setting of calorie reduction guidelines and reviewing progress on salt reduction.”
The next report on sugar reduction is due out in Spring 2019.
Timber and derived products
The production of timber and derived products is an obvious driver of global deforestation. As with palm oil, Ethical Consumer’s rating looks beyond the use of certified products; below we present the key information from each company.
Aldi: In 2016, over half of products in the UK containing paper or wood were PEFC- or FSC-certified or 100% recycled. Target: 100% certified by 2020.
Asda: Target: all timber and timber products from sustainable sources by 2020.
Co-op: In 2015, 82.5% of timber-derived Co-op own brand products sold were FSC-certified and 12.5% came from recycled post-consumer waste. Target (undated): 100% certified.
Lidl: No figures disclosed. Company says: “We source virgin pulp from certified sources (FSC, PEFC) for all our hygiene paper products, soft beverage cartons and all communication materials. We are continuing to increase the proportion of our other products and packaging sourced from certified sources.”
Marks & Spencer: 100% responsibly sourced – goods for resale and also in packaging, marketing, etc. 72% FSC-certified. All suppliers required to acknowledge the right of indigenous people and rural communities to give or withhold their Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) before new logging rights were allocated or plantations developed.
Morrisons: 16% of own brand home and leisure products FSC-certified or equivalent; 88% of own-brand household and beauty products FSC or recycled. Target: 100% sustainable by 2020.
Sainsbury’s: 93% of wood used in own-brand products in 2014/15 (excluding nappies) was from recycled, PEFC- or FSC-Certified sources with FSC making up 78% and FSC recycled 9%. Target: all paper/timber in own-brand products from sustainable sources by 2020.
Tesco: 59% of timber sales FSC-certified. Target: all wood-fibre materials in products will be from recycled sources or certified to FSC or PEFC standard by 2020.
Waitrose: 95% own-brand timber and paper products sustainably sourced (certified or recycled). John Lewis – 19% of own-brand products certified sustainable and 4% verified responsible (non-controversial sources and pre-and post-consumer waste).
Target: 100% responsible and sustainable sources by 2020.