WHEN the UK’s largest brand food producer Premier Foods set out a plan in 2008 to become a leader in sourcing RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil) certified sustainable palm oil by 2015 across all its brand products, it wasn’t mere rhetoric. They meant business.
Indeed, by the end of 2011, 21 relevant manufacturing sites were RSPO certified by BM TRADA Certification and seven more have been added to the company’s multi-site RSPO certification in 2012.
The demands of a multi-site certification can be a challenge, but as Premier Foods Head of Sustainability, Ian Bowles, says: “It’s complex but it can be done. And the benefits are clear. We set out to take a leadership role on sustainable palm oil procurement and to achieve a competitive advantage in the market. I believe gaining RSPO certification through BM TRADA has taken us a long way towards that objective.
“We have the assurance that our sites have been independently assessed against, and are compliant with, requirements of the RSPO Supply Chain Certification Standard. Centralised administrative control means we optimise resources and time, as well as reducing audit, maintenance and certification costs. Group-wide, we have a consistent approach to procedures, training and reporting. Most importantly, our customers and consumers know, and have evidence of, our commitment to responsible and sustainable procurement. It has brought all-round improvement.”
Many misconceptions surround the palm oil issue, and therefore for Premier Foods to be able to give consumers the confidence that its products contain responsibly sourced palm oil is imperative.
Says Ian: “Palm oil is an amazing, high yielding resource, and when farmed sustainably uses significantly less land than alternatives. Fundamental to our vision was to work with those NGOs campaigning on palm oil procurement, work which has received accolades from the RSPO and the World Wide Fund for Nature. That tells me we are on the right track.”
Palm oil production has increased rapidly in recent years, as has concern over the sustainability of its cultivation and the impacts on local populations and eco-systems. The RSPO was formed in 2004 to provide a model for responsible palm oil production and supply. Supply chain certification is applicable to all food and non-food products that use palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Palm oil is the world’s most used vegetable oil, and due to its versatility is found in foods, animal feed, soap and cosmetics.
Governments, supermarkets, manufacturers, charities and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF UK) are working together to ensure that by 2015 all palm oil used in everyday food, soaps and cosmetics is responsibly sourced.
As the need to prove the sustainability, and demonstrate responsible sourcing of products becomes more important, manufacturers and retailers want to ensure that the claims they make on their goods will stand up to scrutiny. Supply Chain Certification offers this assurance, it proves the supply chain is secure, traceable and provides credible evidence of a product’s sustainability. In short, it means manufacturers and retailers can sell with confidence, while consumers can buy with confidence.
Certification provides evidence that the product originates from well-managed, certified sources and that they are not mixed with products from uncertified sources at any point in the supply chain, except under strict management controls.
Benefits associated with RSPO Certification are significant:
• It demonstrates commitment to environmental practices and sustainable business
• It meets the expectations of major manufacturers and retailers, many of whom have time-bound commitments to the use of sustainable palm oil in their products
• It meets customers’ expectations regarding commitment to sustainable palm oil products
• And, it helps gain access to new markets
Andy Green, BM TRADA Certification sustainability business manager, said: “RSPO certification offers manufacturers a commercial edge over uncertified competitors as more retailers demand proof of responsibly-sourced raw materials, enabling their customers to buy with confidence.
Companies which want to stay ahead of the game will be seeking RSPO certification sooner rather than later, and well in advance of the 2015 deadline.
“Farmed sustainably, palm oil is an excellent product. It yields up to five times more per hectare than other competing vegetable oils and as it is a labour intensive crop it helps many families out of poverty. Demand for palm oil continues to grow, and with it the demand for responsible sourcing of this product.”
BM TRADA Certification
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