Many food and drink manufacturers have in place long-standing commitments to using 100% certified sustainable palm oil

Many food and drink manufacturers have in place long-standing commitments to using 100% certified sustainable palm oil

UK food manufacturers have pledged to work towards using only "sustainable" palm oil in their products by 2015.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said the industry has signed up to a national statement published by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs today (30 October).

The country's Environment Minister Richard Benyon announced the initiative, which he said has seen the involvement of supermarkets, manufacturers, charities and WWF joining forces to ensure the pledge is carried out.

The FDF welcomed the move and said its members "recognise the need for collaborative efforts between sectors to support and promote this common aim".

"Many food and drink manufacturers have in place long-standing commitments to using 100% certified sustainable palm oil and the national statement is an important step towards a wider reassurance for consumers that the products they enjoy contain oil from environmentally friendly sources," said FDF director of sustainability Andrew Kuyk.

"We have seen significant progress towards achieving this aim since the first shipment of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil arrived in November 2008 and we believe the joint agreement will encourage increased uptake by British industry."

Multi-stakeholder initiative RSPO has, along with other similar intiatives, drawn a degree of scepticism and criticism from some NGOs in recent years, as plantations are thought to have led to deforestation in parts of Asia, affecting biodiversity.

Like the FDF, WWF-UK also welcomed the move. But while the organisation said the initiative was "significant", it said the pledge did not "convey clearly enough the need to take action now".

"The whole UK palm oil industry from traders and processors through to manufacturers needs to match the best actions taken by individual businesses that have already committed to using 100% RSPO certified palm oil and which are, in many cases, well on the way to achieving this commitment ahead of time," said Adam Harrison, food and agriculture policy officer at WWF-UK.

According to WWF-UK, data released by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil meeting this week in Singapore showed supermarkets including The Co-operative Group, Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury's are already "at or very close" to using 100% RSPO certified palm oil, as well as manufacturers like United Biscuits, Warburtons and Burton's Biscuit Co.

Many leading food and drink manufacturers are active members of RSPO and have made substantial progress towards their aim of using only certified sustainable palm oil bought via RSPO-approved trading systems.

Earlier this year, Unilever announced plans to build a palm oil processing plant in Indonesia as part of a target to use only "traceable" sources of the commodity by 2020. The group said it would hit its target of using only palm oil covered by Green Palm certificates by the end of the year - three years ahead of plan.