What is palm oil?
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world and comes from the fruit of oil palm trees.
Where is it grown?
Oil palms only grow in the tropics. The two main palm oil-producing countries are Indonesia and Malaysia in south-east Asia, although it is increasingly also being grown in Latin America. Growing demand has seen production double over the past 20 years, which has led to thousands of hectares of old, tropical forests chopped down to make way for palm tree plantations.
Why is palm oil used so widely?
Palm oil is incredibly versatile and used in a variety of products, from food to cosmetics, because it has no taste, is solid at room temperature and holds colour well. It is also a very efficient crop.
What does Saputo Dairy UK use palm oil for?
We use a variety of vegetable oils in the manufacture of our spreads brands, including some sustainable palm oil. Palm oil is used because it has a neutral taste and smell. It is solid at typical fridge temperatures and gives the final product a smooth and creamy texture. Palm oil is also very low in trans fats (<1%) and lower in saturated fats than most alternatives, which is an important requirement from a health perspective.
What is Saputo Dairy UK doing to address the environmental issues of palm oil?
We are working members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), supporting the production and uptake of sustainable palm. RSPO covers the whole supply chain and our suppliers are also members.
All the palm oil we buy is certified sustainable and our spreads production facility is fully certified against the RSPO certification standard – RSPO Principles and Criteria.
We work closely with our palm supplier which is active in building sustainable practices and transparency in the sector and throughout the supply chain. We meet with our supplier annually to assess its activities and those of its supply chain.
This approach is supported by The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and further information can be found here.
Creating a sustainable palm oil industry in Latin America
Roughly 40% of the palm oil that we source originates from Latin America where the palm oil industry is less developed than in south-east Asia. Together with our oil supplier, Olenex, we are determined that as the industry grows, it does so in a sustainable way.
Our commitment to creating a completely sustainable palm oil industry is reflected in our sponsorship of Project Mariposa. This programme enables growers to manage their palm trees sustainably, supporting thousands of families on their path to develop, improve and maintain their sustainable production practices.
Our work funds training programmes for smallholder farmers in Honduras, enabling them to progress towards full RSPO certification.
Partnering with Chester Zoo to protect wildlife in Borneo
As part of our efforts to promote the use of sustainable palm oil, we have partnered with Chester Zoo to fund the Kinabatangan Orangutan Conservation Programme in Borneo, Indonesia which helps protect critically endangered Bornean orangutans.
Chester Zoo works with a number of leading organisations, including RSPO, to transform the palm oil industry into one that is fully sustainable. They undertake valuable conservation work in south-east Asia to protect species threatened by extinction. To find out more about Chester Zoo’s work on sustainable palm, click here.
Our partnership also enables us to raise awareness of the benefits of using sustainable palm oil with employees, retail customers and consumers.
What do you mean by 'sustainable palm oil'?
Sustainable palm oil is palm that has been sourced in line with a set of environmental and social criteria developed by the RSPO.
One of the most important RSPO criteria states that no primary forests or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can be cleared.
Other RSPO principles stipulate a significantly reduced use of pesticides and fires; fair treatment of workers according to local and international labour rights standards, and the need to inform and consult with local communities before the development of new plantations on their land. You can learn more about RSPO and sustainable palm oil here.
We can only claim that we use sustainable palm oil in our products because we are certified by an RSPO-approved independent auditor at our spreads production site and all the palm oil we buy is 100% sustainably sourced; a mix of mass balance and fully segregated.
Why doesn’t Saputo Dairy UK use alternatives to palm oil?
Palm oil is extremely high yielding. Palm oils produce more oil per hectare of land than any other oil-producing crop. Although it represents 35% of the world’s vegetable oil supply, it only requires 10% of the land. Possible replacements, such as coconut oil or shea butter, are only produced in small volumes and would require significantly greater land areas to match the output of palm. As global demand for plant-based oils is increasing, moving to alternative sources could therefore result in even greater harm to the environment. From a nutritional perspective, most alternatives are also higher in saturated fats.