Boycotts and bans are not the solution to creating a sustainable edible oils sector, according to a new cross-sector coalition report published on 7 July.

The ‘Breaking down fats and oils’ report by the Edible Fats and Oils Collaboration calls for a new policy that considers the sustainability aspects of all fats and oils in one holistic system, rather than targeting individual ingredients.

The collaboration is convened by not-for-profit organisation Forum for the Future and its members include feed ingredients firm Volac Wilmar, global retailer M&S, consumer goods giant Unilever, leading plant-based company Upfield, and independent conservation organisation WWF-UK and international nature organisation IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands (IUCN-NL).

“The food industry must work together and build capacity for more joined-up thinking on how to make the fats and oils sector more sustainable,” Forum for the Future head of futures Ivana Gazibara said.

Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a good or bad oil, there is only good and bad oil production and consumption. The report’s aim is to help the food industry seek out deep, transformative and lasting change for the edible fats and oil sector and move away from current shallow and short-term solutions driven by bans and boycotts.”

The report said that all vegetable oils and animal fats presented both advantages and disadvantages and that focusing on single crops – and substituting one oil for another – might have unintended negative effects.

As demand for oil crops rises, the report said companies should consider if the oils and fats products they are using supported nutritional outcomes, rather than increasing health problems such as obesity and cardiovascular disease.

The report also highlights the fact that the climate crisis would increase pressure on the fats and oils system, production and livelihoods, with rising temperatures, changes to water availability and extreme weather events.

“To meet these challenges, the report recommends that fats and oils sustainability requires collaboration across whole landscapes and jurisdictions,” the report said.

This is the second publication by the Edible Fats and Oil Collaboration following its 2019 Case for Action report, which outlined the anticipated drivers of change for fats and oils and identified areas for collaborative action.

The global edible oils market was valued at around US$97bn in 2019, and this was expected to rise to around US$119bn by the end of 2025, according to a report by Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence.

A Research and Markets report published on 2 March forecast a 3.3%/year growth for the vegetable oils market between 2020 and 2027, mainly due to continued growth in both population and diets containing these commodities.

Forum for the Future is a leading international sustainability non-profit organisation working in partnership with business, governments and civil society.