Nearly 8 in 10 home-grown brands don’t source for sustainable palm oil – and here’s how it’s harming us

The majority (66.6%) of home grown brands in Singapore and Malaysia remain vague about their palm oil usage, with nearly 8 in 10 of the companies surveyed saying they do not source for sustainable palm oil.

These was among the findings of the first region-specific study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in its Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard.

It had surveyed 47 companies across Singapore and Malaysia, but only 16 disclosed information. A total of 17 companies from Singapore and 14 from Malaysia declined or ignored requests for information.

Denise Westerhout, the lead for WWF Malaysia’s Sustainable Markets Programme was quoted in The Guardian as saying: “We were disappointed at the number of non-responses.”

“It doesn’t enable us to gauge how well the market is moving along and how much help it needs in raising awareness and understanding what we need to do”.

Palm oil is an ingredient in a large number of consumer goods, including lipstick and shampoo.

Simply peel back the labels on some of your daily products, and you may be surprised to find palm oil listed as one of the ingredients.

However, the ubiquitous substance is also a huge driver of deforestation and can affect the people and animals that live in areas of palm production.

Between 2000 and 2015, nearly 1.6 million hectares of primary forests – that’s an area nearly 24 times of Singapore – in Indonesia were converted to oil palm plantations.

The unregulated clearing of forests results in a transboundary haze that we recognise all too well.

New alliances in Southeast Asia were forged in the last year to boost demand for sustainable palm oil and tackling haze pollution, but there is still more work to be done.

“We need to help consumers better understand that their choices make a difference,” said Westerhout in The Guardian.

Among the companies surveyed, the lack of internal capacity arose as the key obstacle in adopting more sustainable measures.

In fact, most companies in the region lack sustainability or procurement teams to manage the sourcing of sustainable palm oil.

These companies also cite the price of sustainable palm oil and a lack of consumer awareness and demand as key factors.

However, according to research by WWF, these companies may be mistaken.

It was found that consumers are actually willing to pay up to 10% more for sustainable products – especially when it comes to avoiding haze and deforestation activities.

Moreover, the top companies that have emerged as local leaders in sourcing for sustainable palm oil provide a clear indication that it is possible.

Two companies, Denis Asia Pacific – which is behind Ayam Brand canned food – and Wildlife Reserves Singapore, emerged as obvious regional leaders in the scorecard, providing “a clear indication that sourcing sustainable palm oil is possible.”