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Why a(nother) scorecard?


In the ten years that have passed since WWF first did a Scorecard, whilst brands have continued to profit from the palm oil industry, the continued occurrence of the burning of forests and peatlands for palm oil expansion is a reminder that their actions still fall short of what is needed to deliver a responsible, sustainable palm oil industry.

As we enter a new decade, there is no greater urgency than now for companies to step up to act immediately. With there being more ways in which brands can support a better industry than ever before, this Scorecard is a timely and much-needed assessment of companies’ actions taken on their own supply chain and beyond to support the wider industry, moving companies from mere risk mitigation for their own supply chain towards being pro-environment and pro-people.

Palm Oil -
A wonder crop?

From margarine to lipstick, biscuits to candles, chocolate to laundry detergent, palm oil is found in an incredible range of everyday household products. It blends well with other oils and can be processed to form a wide range of products with different consistencies and characteristics.

The industry also creates a huge number of jobs and is an important contributor to many local and national economies. Given these benefits, it is not difficult to see why oil palm is often seen as a wonder crop.

Palm oil’s wide range of uses has thus earned it the title of being the most consumed and traded vegetable oil in the world, making up 40% of global vegetable oil consumption and over 60% of the vegetable oil traded each year.

But there’s a downside. Grown in the wrong place and in the wrong way, palm oil can be devastating for people, wildlife, nature and our climate.


Land clearance for oil palm plantations has led to widespread destruction of rainforests, causing the loss of habitats of threatened and endangered species including orangutans, elephants, rhinos and tigers, and having catastrophic effects on a much wider suite of biodiversity and a range of ecosystem functions. Irresponsible expansion has also threatened freshwater ecosystems and caused soil and air pollution.


The expansion oil palm production areas has also often been at the expense of the rights and interests of local communities and indigenous peoples. This often takes the form of land grabs, forced displacement, harassment, criminalization and the loss of land for food and medicine. Conflicts arising from the employment conditions of plantation workers and discrimination against smallholders have also cast shadows on the sector


The conversion of forest and peatland to palm oil plantations releases large quantities of carbon dioxide, fuelling climate change. Fires used to clear forest have created air pollution across Southeast Asia on numerous occasions. The amount of greenhouse gases emitted during the 2015 Indonesian fires was almost equal to Indonesia’s emissions for the whole year.

Are there really no substitutes for palm oil?

Palm oil is by far the most productive vegetable oil presently produced at a large scale, using less than half the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. Hence, replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, increasing the risk that more forests would need to be cleared. Hence, it is better to work with the palm oil industry to encourage sustainable production rather than to try to boycott the use of their products.



Production is expected to treble by 2050 to feed the world’s growing population. So we have to act now to make the industry more accountable and sustainable – before more harm to people and nature is done.

chart palm oil is here to stay


WWF believes that the palm oil industry can grow and prosper without sacrificing any more tropical forests or causing conflict with communities. Since our previous Scorecards, many companies have made pledges that their supply chains be fully sustainable and deforestation and conversion-free by 2020.

Doing so would involve companies looking beyond ensuring that their own palm oil supply chain is 100% certified. To support stewardship of the wider landscape, companies need to follow the standard and guidance of the Accountability Framework (AFi) and invest in complementary actions on RSPO certification and beyond, such as landscape and/or jurisdictional approaches, traceability, and smallholder support programs.