Sustainable Energy

Major supermarket pledges to get rid of palm oil from its own label food

Jami Tarris | Barcroft Media | Getty Images

U.K. supermarket Iceland is to stop using palm oil in its own label food by the end of this year.

The frozen food specialist said Tuesday that palm oil had already been removed from half of its "own label range" and that 130 products would be reformulated by the end of 2018. Iceland said it had brought out 100 new lines without palm oil so far this year.

Used in both cosmetics and food, palm oil is a controversial ingredient. Environmental pressure group Greenpeace has warned that tropical rainforests and peatland in Southeast Asia are being "destroyed" in order to free up space for palm oil plantations. This, it said, is a disaster for both biodiversity and local communities.

Iceland said that it had made what it described as an "ethical" decision to stop using palm oil to demonstrate to the food industry that it was possible to lower demand for palm oil "whilst seeking solutions that do not destroy the world's rainforest."

Iceland's pledge on palm oil follows its decision in January to remove plastic packaging from its own label products by 2023.

"Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying 'no to palm oil,'" Richard Walker, the supermarket's managing director, said in a statement. "We don't believe there is such a thing as guaranteed 'sustainable' palm oil available in the mass market, so we are giving consumers a choice to say no to palm for the first time."

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace U.K., welcomed Iceland's decision. "As global temperatures rise from burning forests, and populations of endangered species continue to dwindle, companies using agricultural commodities like palm oil will come under increasing pressure to clean up their supply chains," he said. "Many of the biggest consumer companies in the world have promised to end their role in deforestation by 2020."

Iceland's decision to stop using palm oil came on the same day that upmarket U.K. grocery store Waitrose said it would ban all takeaway disposable coffee cups in its shops by the fall.

Members of its loyalty scheme, who are entitled to a free cup of tea or coffee when they shop, will soon be asked to bring reusable cups to stores rather than use the currently available disposable ones provided in-store. Waitrose said its move would save 52 million cups annually.

"We realize this is a major change, but we believe removing all takeaway disposable cups is the right thing to do for our business and are confident the majority of customers will support the environmental benefits," Tor Harris, Waitrose's head of sustainability and responsible sourcing, said in a statement.