Premier Foods plc, the UK's largest food group, has signed up to the sustainable palm oil programme GreenPalm, becoming the latest company to commit to more environmentally-friendly sourcing.

The maker of Mr Kipling cakes said today (25 November) that it had brought forward its target of sourcing all of its palm oil in a sustainable way by two years.

Will Carter, MD of Premier's grocery division, said: "We are delighted to be able to announce our participation in the GreenPalm programme as a stepping stone to sourcing 100% CSPO blended product as this becomes available on the UK market."

GreenPalm works by giving palm oil producers certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil one GreenPalm certificate for each tonne of palm oil they produce sustainably.

Manufacturers and retailers - like Premier and Marks and Spencer, which also recently joined the programme - then bid for and buy the certificates online as a means of helping the production of sustainable palm oil.

Critics argue that GreenPalm is not a fool-proof answer to encouraging more production of sustainable palm oil, which is vital to protect rainforests. 

GreenPalm's detractors claim that, when the sustainably-produced palm oil sold under the scheme is shipped, it is not kept separate from oil made from plantations created by chopping down rainforests.

However, Premier's Carter said the UK food group was keen to work towards a segregated supply chain.

"It is important that we send a strong message to palm oil producers and processors that there is an existing, and increasing, demand in the UK for 100% segregated and traceable blended certified sustainable palm oil," he said.

Last month, environmental campaigners the WWF launched a "palm oil buyers scorecard" issued by the WWF to highlight the availability of sustainable palm oil.

WWF UK senior policy officer Adam Harrison welcomes Premier's move.

"Our recent scorecard showed that only a few companies were taking action on palm oil. However, it is good to see a company that produces such well-known and everyday products taking practical steps to fulfil its commitment to ending the damage caused by unsustainable palm oil.

Harrison added: "We hope that this will spur other manufacturers to join the growing group of progressive companies who are supporting RSPO certified sustainable palm oil."