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Local brands vague about palm oil usage, among other issues: WWF report

TWO in three of home grown brands are not transparent about their palm oil usage in Singapore, while nearly eight in 10 do not source sustainable palm oil, a World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) report found.

The Palm Oil Buyers' Scorecard - Malaysia and Singapore 2017 is an initiative to introduce transparency into South-east Asia's palm oil industry, WWF said on Thursday.

The report assesses the buying and sourcing of palm oil by local retailers, manufacturers and food service brands.

It found that non-disclosure and lack of action was higher among brands in Singapore and Malaysia, compared to global brands.

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Three in 10 regional brands responded to WWF and only three have public commitments on palm oil use. In comparison, global brands had an 80 per cent response rate and over 60 per cent have palm oil commitments.

Elaine Tan, chief executive officer of WWF-Singapore said: "Unsustainable practices in the palm oil industry are at the root of the transboundary haze and deforestation. Singapore is at the heart of a region that supplies 85 per cent of the world's palm oil. Our local brands need to show leadership by being accountable for their palm oil use and take real action to source sustainably."

The report stated that brands listed internal factors such as capacity issues and higher costs as obstacles in the switch to sustainable palm oil. But WWF highlighted that current industry rates for sustainable palm oil options start at less than one cent more per litre.

Another finding is that there is a perceived lack of demand for sustainable palm oil by customers in Singapore.

To this, WWF-Singapore has launched a campaign to demonstrate to local brands that consumers care and support sustainable palm oil. Since the campaign launched, Bee Cheng Hiang, Commonwealth Capital and Tung Lok have committed to start on sustainable palm oil.

Meanwhile, Denis Asia Pacific (Ayam Brand) and Wildlife Reserves Singapore are already sourcing sustainable palm oil and are involved in industry-led platforms such as SASPO (South-east Asia Alliance for Sustainable Palm Oil).

The study assessed 47 local companies across Malaysia and Singapore. There were 27 Singapore companies, selected based on criteria such as the use of palm oil, market leadership, as well as crowd sourced suggestions from members of the public.

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