On the same shopping trip last week that brought me to Bath and Body Works, we wandered into a Williams Sonoma store. Not really into the overpriced kitchen objects I continued my label reading. Sure enough, many Williams Sonoma products, like cake and cookie mixes, etc., contained something called “organic palm oil.” Not sure if that merely means they use no pesticide or whether that represents other environmental steps, like sourcing sustainably.
UPDATED 3/11/2013: Well, I wrote many emails to WS querying their sourcing. After getting repeated canned corporate responses that failed to directly address my question (which I posted here but have since removed), I received a communication from WS through this blog asking that we get in touch directly. Thankfully they delivered some good news. Here’s the long-awaited WS palm oil policy:
I’m glad we can correspond directly about this. First of all, I apologize that prior responses were not adequate nor did they specifically address your question about Williams-Sonoma’s use of organic palm oil.
I want to assure you that we take this issue seriously. Our teams are passionate and committed to making sure that the ingredients in the products we sell are sustainably sourced.
Specifically, we are committed to using sustainably sourced organic palm oil. Our primary manufacturer of shortening, Spectrum, sustainably sources all its organic palm oil, and we use Spectrum shortening in all our Williams-Sonoma Frostings.
Spectrum farms are all are certified in accordance with international third party certifying agencies and have obtained social and environmental certification. The company impacts local communities by allocating a percentage of their export revenues to fund social projects and aids in the activities of their workers’ welfare association. They are also part of the Productive Alliances, working together with small farmers to create a sustainable model. For more information about Spectrum please visit their website: http://www.spectrumorganics.com/?id=269 .
Regarding our other food products that contain palm oil, we are in the process of confirming with all of our other suppliers that their sources are indeed members of RSPO, and moving forward we will ensure 100% of palm oil suppliers are RSPO members before doing business with them.
Again, this is an issue that is very important to us and we appreciate your concerns. Thank you for your feedback.
So, at least some of their palm oil is sustainably sourced. But, again, we’re all aware of RSPO membership, its limitations and what it does and doesn’t mean. Sometimes RSPO membership is just used as another form of greenwashing because the RSPO is a voluntary organization that really hasn’t stopped much deforestation (if any) because of palm oil. For instance:
“RSPO membership does not ensure that any RSPO criteria are being met at the plantation level since the only major criteria to meet in the first 5 years is consistent dues payment…Even certification does not ensure that companies are not expanding on peat given the lack of greenhouse gas emissions criteria.”
But at least this is a step in the right direction.