Selfridges makes all own-brand foods free of palm oil

Department store says milestone has been achieved nine months ahead of target

Shoppers with Selfridges bags
 Shoppers with Selfridges bags. The department store has announced that the 300 products in its Selfridges Selection range are free of palm oil. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

Selfridges has become the first major UK retailer to make its own-brand foods completely free of palm oil, nine months ahead of its original target and as part of its long-term sustainable strategy.

The upmarket department store is poised to announce that the nearly 300 products in its Selfridges Selection range on sale in its food halls – including chocolates and biscuits – are free of palm oil, along with its own-label cakes and mince pies for Christmas this year.

Palm oil, a cheap and mass-produced ingredient renowned for its versatility, is currently found in more than half of all supermarket products, from foods such as bread, pastry, biscuits, cereal and chocolate, to household items such as soap and detergent.

But only a small percentage of palm oil comes from an officially approved sustainable source. In Indonesia and Malaysia, where expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest driver of deforestation, the orangutan is among species threatened with extinction.

A recent study for the University of Cambridge, carried out by YouGov, found that UK consumer awareness of palm oil was high (77%), with 41% of those aware of it viewing it as “environmentally unfriendly”.

Simon Forster, the managing director of Selfridges, said: “We’re committed to buying better to inspire change. The removal of palm oil from our Selfridges Selection range is the latest demonstration of this approach. We believe that until certified palm oil guarantees zero deforestation, our customers should be given the option to buy palm oil-free products. Our expectation is that all brands we work with are aware of and actively engaging with the issues surrounding palm oil and deforestation.”

Selfridges said the milestone had been achieved nine months ahead of target as part of its sustainable strategy, which aims to ensure that 50% of all products are better for people and the planet by 2022.

In October last year the store took the unusual step of stocking palm oil-free mince pies made by the frozen food specialist Iceland, as both retailers sought to boost their environmental credentials by committing to removing the oil from their own-brand ranges.

In April Iceland had pledged to remove it from “100%” of its own products by the end of 2018 but – unable to meet the ambitious deadline – it dropped its own name from 17 foods. Highlighting the scale of the challenge, Iceland said it did not want to “mislead consumers”.

On Monday, the world’s leading scientists warned of the impact of deforestation on animals – and the palm oil sourcing policies of major brands and retailers have come under close scrutiny from environmental groups.

John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK, said: “Growing demand for palm oil for use in food products, cosmetics and biodiesel is devastating tropical rainforests across south-east Asia. This war against nature has to stop. Selfridges has sent a shot across the bow of an industry that urgently needs to change if it wants to remain in business.”

In January the online supermarket Ocado launched a palm oil-free “aisle”, listing more than 5,000 branded items free from the oil, ranging from bread and cereal to spice mix and shampoo.

Source: The Guardian

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