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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Response from Tesco on Biofuel - doesn't look like they have an audit trail.

Dear Kevin,

Thank you for your emails regarding palm oil and biofuel. I apologise for the delay to this response, but I wanted to be able to reply as fully as possible.

Let me start by updating you on our palm oil policy. Since your last correspondence with Andrew Slight we have publicly committed to ensure that all the palm oil used in our products is fully certified and sustainable by 2015. This is a long-term project as our products use palm oil derivatives and, at present, the traceability and certification of the derivatives of palm oil are still in their infancy.

To achieve our target we are working closely with our supply base and in July we issued a new Code of Practice to all our suppliers. This code of practice sets out the way sustainable palm oil should come into the business. We have also held training courses for all Tesco’s Technical Managers, in conjunction with AAK and Greenpalm, to ensure they can support our suppliers.

Our suppliers are already making good progress. All the oil used in our products can be traced back to an RSPO member, although not all their plantations are fully certified yet and there is not a segregated supply chain for all the palm oil derivatives used. Uptake by our suppliers of sustainable oil through all four systems recognised by the RSPO is being monitored on a monthly basis through our central specification database. Our suppliers are already using Green palm certificates across the product range and are in negotiation for purchasing segregated oil where it is available for the type of derivatives used in our products.

You expressed a concern that we do not label the type of vegetable oil we use in our products. We use palm oil as part of a blend of vegetable oils that can be changed on a regular basis to ensure we meet the quality and price expectations of our customers. We know what the mix of vegetable oils is for every batch of product produced and can trace the palm oil back to an RSPO producer.

With regard to biofuels, we are aware that the impacts of biofuels are complex and the environmental impacts depend upon how they are made. All our fuel suppliers are members of the RSPO. Greenergy, who supply almost 50% of our fuel requirements, have been praised for their work in developing biofuel sustainability criteria and audit programmes. They seek to minimise the use of palm and publish usage figures on their website

We recognise that there is work to do, especially on the traceability and sustainability of biofuel raw materials and we have asked the Sustainable Consumption institute at Manchester University to help us understand the long-term impacts of biofuels. EU rules about the sustainability of biofuels will also speed up the uptake of sustainable palm in the biofuels industry.
I hope you find this information helpful.

Kind regards,