Buyers urge firms to use sustainable palm oil

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched a campaign for sustainable palm oil, and within hours, consumers flooded 13 companies with e-mails.

Prior to launching the #IBuyICan pressure campaign yesterday at 8am, WWF had approached 27 Singapore and 20 Malaysia companies for a survey.

The 47 companies contacted were picked based on market share, brand prominence, regional presence, supply chain impact and use of palm oil.

WWF wanted to know about thecompanies' palm oil practices, such as targets they may have for switching to only sustainable sources of palm oil.

Only 10 local and six Malaysia companies responded at first. And six of the local companies said customers would not care what kind of palm oil they used.

That was when the campaign to pressure the businesses kicked in. By 5pm on the day of the launch, the senior management of 13 local companies had received more than 7,700 e-mails from consumers. The message was clear: Consumers do care.

Palm oil production, when done irresponsibly, leads to deforestation, and also pollutes water and air.

Among the companies WWF contacted were Ayam Brand, Wildlife Reserves Singapore Group, Sheng Siong and Malaysia's Mamee Double-Decker.

Of the 10 local companies that responded, seven said the cost of sustainable palm oil was a barrier for them. The WWF then contacted the remaining companies to tell them about the campaign.

By Wednesday, the day before the campaign started, four of the 17 companies that did not respond earlier - Tung Lok Group, Commonwealth Capital, Super Group and Bee Cheng Hiang - pledged they would act towards using sustainable palm oil. The 7,700 e-mails were then directed at the 13 remaining companies.

WWF chief executive Elaine Tan said the pledges "allow us to take the first steps with them to be transparent by setting a time-bound public commitment". - THE STRAITS TIMES