“A thousand apologies for the row over Nutella,” she wrote on her official Twitter account last week, after she called for a boycott of the hazelnut-chocolate spread for its use of palm oil. She suggested on French television that palm oil was responsible for widespread deforestation – but Ferrero has refuted her comments, highlighting its commitment to sourcing 100% sustainable palm oil, which it met in 2013, two years ahead of its original target.
NGOs have also leapt to the company’s defence, including Greenpeace, which pointed out that Ferrero was an industry leader in its sustainable sourcing policy for palm oil.
“Ferrero… has an ambitious policy to ensure that the palm oil it purchases is not linked to deforestation,” said Greenpeace Netherlands palm oil coordinator Suzanne Kroger. “We therefore consider Ferrero to be one of the more progressive consumer-facing companies with regards to palm oil sourcing.
“…Greenpeace is not in favour of boycotting products containing palm oil. While palm oil production is linked to deforestation and social conflict, it is also a valuable contributor to the economies and livelihoods of local communities in countries like Indonesia. Calling for a blanket boycott of this agricultural crop will not solve problems in its production.”
Royal said she would “highlight the progress” Ferrero had made, but her comments about palm oil’s links with deforestation reflect a broader reality within the palm oil industry.
Even the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) says it “recognises that palm oil’s cultivation is one of the major causes of deforestation in South-East Asia”. Indeed, it was set up in 2004 to tackle the issue. It now certifies one-fifth of the world’s palm oil as sustainably sourced, but acknowledges that more needs to be done to improve the credibility of its certification.
“To this end, the RSPO Board of Governors has recently announced its intention to adopt a set of additional voluntary criteria, aimed at further enhancing the existing certification requirements on peat, deforestation and indigenous people’s rights,” it said in a statement.
RSPO has called on all European companies to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2020, and has encouraged other companies to follow Ferrero’s lead.