The campaign is a ground-breaking collaboration between the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer and has surveyed over 70 of the UK's top chocolate brands on their use of palm oil or its derivatives.
The campaign is being launched in response to the increasing threat that unsustainable palm oil is posing to the world’s rainforests, and consequently, to the people that rely almost entirely on those forests for their livelihoods.
Having destroyed vast areas of forest in countries such as Indonesia, palm oil companies are now planning to expand in the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Africa. An area the size of Yorkshire is currently being cleared to make way for oil palm plantations. If forest habitats are lost, then numerous wildlife species, including forest elephant and lowland gorilla, will also be under threat.
Simon Counsell, Executive Director of The Rainforest Foundation UK said: 'We’ve launched a guide to foods containing palm oil with Ethical Consumer to raise awareness of the impacts associated with the production of this common ingredient. Consumers should be empowered to make informed purchasing decisions, understanding the impact of the production of the products they pick'.
According to a recent RFUK report Seeds of Destruction, 1 million acres of rainforest in the Congo Basin is currently being developed by palm oil producers, and with 284 million acres of suitable soil in the region, developers are actively seeking large sites now. Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products and companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014.
Tim Hunt co-director at Ethical Consumer said: 'Consumer power has the potential to help save the Congo's rainforests and its wildlife that is under threat from palm oil production. This Easter we're asking chocolate lovers to buy their Easter eggs from those chocolate companies that we've identified as taking an ethically responsible stance on this critical issue'.
The top two chocolate companies identified in the product guide are: Divine and Booja Booja. Neither company uses any palm oil in their chocolate products.
The bottom three chocolate companies identified in the product guide are Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian. Lindt supplied inaccurate figures while Thorntons and Guylian failed to submit any documentation to the organisations that set international sustainable palm oil standards.
The product guide to chocolate is the first of a series of guides that will rate all consumer products using palm oil. Future guides will include biscuits, cereals and spreads.
The aim of the campaign is to encourage consumers to buy the best rated products, forcing those companies that are not taking their environmental responsibilities seriously to use more sustainably sourced palm oil.
The full product guide can be seen here:www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/palm-oil-database
image: © ben britten