Unilever pledged UK spread brands like Bertolli and Flora will contain 100% "traceable and certified sustainable palm oil" by end of year

Unilever pledged UK spread brands like Bertolli and Flora will contain 100% "traceable and certified sustainable palm oil" by end of year

Unilever has said the palm oil it directly sources for its food in Europe will be 100% traceable and sustainable by the end of the year - but admitted it had fallen short of a worldwide pledge made 12 months ago.

The Magnum ice cream and Flora spreads maker made the pledge as it issued its latest "progress report" on how it sources palm oil.

The consumer goods giant, seen as one of the food manufacturers at the forefront of industry moves to improve the way the ingredient is sourced, said 58% of its palm oil was now "traceable to known sources".

That figure is below a target Unilever announced last November, when it said all of the palm oil it bought globally would be "traceable to known sources".

However, Pier Luigi Sigismondi, Unilever's chief supply chain officer, said: "2014 has been a defining year for our goal to create a more transparent palm oil industry. Knowing where it comes from is a critical step in the journey. The challenge is enormous and not easy to achieve but we are determined and can now report good progress. We want to share our learnings with the rest of the industry."

In its latest progress report, Unilever said Europe - plus Australia and New Zealand - were "leading the way" on the issue, with "consumers demanding more sustainable palm oil".

It said: "Moving towards traceable, certified palm oil in Europe has not been straightforward, as the majority of the palm oil we use in the region is in the form of blends, fractions and derivatives. Our decision to convert the region to traceable, certified resulted in a tender to consolidate our sourcing to a few selected long-term suppliers for the region. All of the palm oil sourced for our foods business in Europe is now traceable to certified plantations."

However, Unilever added: "These are small yet significant achievements but we recognise that on a global scale, the availability of segregated palm oil supply chains is limited as demand is currently very low in regions outside of Europe."

Unilever has a goal of all the palm oil it buys coming from traceable and certified sources by 2020.

Officials at Unilever could not be reached for further comment at the time of writing.