A new mobile phone app giving shoppers the power to save precious rainforests around the world is being launched in the UK. PalmOil Scan allows users to check a product’s barcode to see how major manufacturers are sourcing their ingredients – specifically palm oil.
The app is free to download and has been developed by the World Association of Zoos and Aquaria (WAZA) and palm oil experts from Auckland Zoo in New Zealand, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in the USA and Chester Zoo in the UK.
Thousands of products, including chocolates, sausage rolls and crisps, have been scanned and scored, with companies worldwide ranked as excellent, good, poor or having made no commitment to sourcing palm oil sustainably.
Palm oil is a £50 billion industry and is estimated to be found in half of packaged supermarket goods, from sweets to cleaning products and make-up to pet food. Unsustainable means of growing and processing palm oil has resulted in widespread devastation and biodiversity loss across South East Asia.
Leading wildlife conservationists say that using the new app could “help save rainforests” as when items containing certified deforestation-free sustainable palm oil are purchased by consumers, it ensures that no further deforestation will take place to produce it.
Users of the app can also alert companies to the fact they are checking out their scores and may be changing their buying habits as a result.
Conservationists from Chester Zoo hope it will make it easier for consumers to spot which companies are using sustainable palm oil in their products, helping to increase demand for items that support wildlife.
Cat Barton, Policy Lead and sustainable palm oil advocate at Chester Zoo, said:
“Facing a biodiversity crisis, now more than ever, it’s crucial that we take a stand against the use of unsustainable palm oil and stop it from contributing to the loss of habitats and species, particularly across South East Asia. Certified sustainable palm oil can help fulfil increasing global food demand, support affordable food prices and reduce poverty, while preventing further damage to wildlife and habitats.
“Alongside partners we’ve developed an app with a rating system as we want to recognise companies and manufacturers that are doing well with their commitments to sourcing sustainable palm oil, and encourage those that urgently need to improve. People really care about this topic and we hope this new app will help consumers to check on their favourite products in their cupboards at home, or when in the supermarket, to make more informed choices about the items they’re putting in their shopping baskets, and easily see which companies are meeting their commitments.
“This app will empower consumers to make positive choices about the companies they support and call out the big international players who could and should be doing more to protect wildlife, people and ecosystems. It’ll clearly show which huge international companies are currently failing wildlife and will ramp up the pressure on them to clean up their supply chains. While there are many well-known brands in the UK that are sourcing well, their parent companies globally certainly aren’t, and so we urgently need those big brands in the UK to push their parent companies to do better. We want this app to completely transform the palm oil industry and drive change towards deforestation-free palm oil.”
The app is the latest initiative by Chester Zoo, which has already rolled out a nationwide campaign to transform villages, towns and cities in the UK into ‘Sustainable Palm Oil Communities’ and is working with the UK government to ensure future policy includes a framework to ensure imports of all commodities into the UK are deforestation-free. The zoo also works with NGOs and fellow conservation charities in South East Asia to restore rainforest and protect critically endangered species, such as the orangutan.
Dr Martín Zordan, CEO of WAZA, added:
“Zoos and aquariums have a pivotal role to play in encouraging and facilitating the use of certified sustainable palm oil. Through our new PalmOil Scan app, consumers will not only become more aware but will also be empowered to make decisions that have wide ranging impacts on sustainability and biodiversity.
“WAZA’s commitment to conserving biodiversity underlines this initiative and we’re proud to have launched the app in the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada and look forward to launching it in more countries in the coming weeks. Through PalmOil Scan, we envisage a change in consumer behaviour for a more sustainable future.”
The new PalmOil Scan app is now available to download from the App Store, Google Play Store, or the WAZA palm oil website. It’s available now in the USA, Canada and UK with a roll out in New Zealand and Australia planned later this year.