Australian firm that removed palm oil from products expelled from sustainable oil certifier

Darrell Lea announced that it had removed palm oil from its products in an advertisement in September, and called on other businesses to do the same. Now the company’s membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil has been terminated.

Darrell Lea orangutan ad
Darrell Lea's decision to go palm oil free came after years of pressure from customers and activists who said the ingredient was responsible for deforestation and the destruction of orangutan habitat in Southeast Asia. Image: Darrell Lea

Darrell Lea, the Australian confectioner that announced it had removed palm oil from its products in the name of sustainability last month, has been kicked out of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the palm oil industry’s lead eco label.

Darrel Lea had been a member of Malaysia-headquartered RSPO since 2015.

RSPO said in a statement released on Tuesday (27 October) that the company had violated its code of conduct by making statements that advocated for a boycott of the controversial ingredient, which is found in half of supermarket products globally.

Tim Stanford, marketing director at Darrell Lea, said at the time of the announcement in September that there was “no doubt” that palm oil production destroys rainforests and endangered animals, such as the orangutan, which featured in an advertising campaign by the company to promote its palm oil-free status.

“We call on all businesses, not only in the confectionery industry but across the board, to look into their supply chain and make better decisions about the ingredients they use,” he said.

RSPO said that Darrell Lea had failed to distinguish between “conventional” and sustainable palm oil, which is cultivated without harming forests or people, and to correct negative public statements about the availability of sustainable palm oil as a green alternative to regular oil.

RSPO said that it had advised Darrell Lea on what it needed to do and communicate to avoid expulsion from the body, but the company had made “no satisfactory attempts” to remedy the breach of its rules.

Darrell Lea has switched to sunflower oil as a replacement for palm oil. After a review of 200 potential ingredients to use, the company said sunflower oil was the best substitute from an environmental and product quality perspective.

“Unlike oils such as coconut, sunflower oil doesn’t require a tropical environment in which to grow, therefore isn’t linked to rainforest deforestation,” the company said on its website.

Darrell Lea’s announcement, which followed years of pressure from customers and activists who blame palm oil for the destruction of orangutan habitat in Southeast Asia, has attracted widespread media coverage, and condemnation from producer countries, particularly Malaysia.

The head of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, Datuk Dr Kalyana Sundram, said in an interview that Australian firms should not point the finger at other countries on wildlife and conservation, after the Australian bushfires, “which killed almost a billion animals have been shown by ecologists to be linked to human activity and agriculture.”

Darrell Lea had not responded to news of the RSPO membership termination at the time of publishing.

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