Palm oil has been subject to criticism for some years. Its cultivation takes up large areas of land and is displacing rain forests, particularly in Indonesia and Malaysia. Coop acknowledged this situation at an early stage and has been using RSPO-certified palm oil for many years. The Basel-based retailer is now taking a big step forward and in the future will also use organic bud palm oil from systematically sustainable production in its conventional own-label foods. In selected own-label products Coop is replacing palm oil completely with other oils and fats where possible and feasible.

Coop has been a member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) since 2004. This association promotes palm oil that is produced under socially equitable and environmentally friendly conditions. Coop's previous strategy was to develop the RSPO further, however this cannot adequately solve the problems in palm oil cultivation.

Coop as a pioneer
Coop is now taking a big step forward and in the future will also use organic bud palm oil from systematically sustainable production in its conventional own-label foods. In selected own-label products, Coop is replacing palm oil completely with other oils and fats where possible and feasible. If other tropical oils or fats such as coconut oil are used, they must come from Fairtrade and/or Bio-Suisse-certified production.

Organic bud palm oil has key advantages

  • Compliance with the strict guidelines of Bio Suisse (which are much more extensive than those of EU organic)
  • No cultivation on areas that were cleared after 1994 (primary and secondary forests)
  • No burning down of areas (before and after harvesting)
  • No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers
  • Compliance with social standards (decent working conditions, ban on child labour, employees’ co-determination, social security for employees)
  • Preference given to small-scale farmers’ cooperatives wherever possible

There are currently three Bio-Suisse-certified palm oil producers in the world. Their farms are in Brazil, Colombia and Madagascar. Sustainable palm oil production is possible and feasible, as palm oil has by far the highest surface area productivity compared with other oils and fats. This reduces the amount of land required. “We appreciate it when foreign companies embrace sustainability and produce their goods in accordance with the Bio Suisse guidelines. The bud is one of the most stringent organic standards in the world”, says the Director of Bio Suisse, Daniel Bärtschi.

The transition will be made gradually in close cooperation with Coop’s production facilities and suppliers, and Bio Suisse. The first converted products should be on Coop’s shelves as early as the beginning of 2019.

Coop is also launching a multi-year research and development project under the guidance of the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) on sustainability of organic bud palm oil with the project partners Bio Suisse and Max Havelaar. The aim of this project is to further optimize its cultivation, and in particular to better integrate small-scale farmers’ cooperatives in the value chain. “This is a radical approach that demonstrates Coop's visionary power in the area of sustainability”, according to Beate Huber, Deputy Director and Head of FiBL’s Department of International Cooperation.

For more information on Coop’s commitment to sustainable palm oil please go to: www.coop.ch/palm-oil

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