A new report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has indicated that African and Asian companies were the least likely to buy sustainable palm oil.

Globally, companies were also showing limited progress to stamp out deforestation, forest fires and human rights abuses from complex supply chains, according to the report.

The 2021 edition of the WWF’s Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard assessed the progress made on sustainability metrics made by 227 major retailers, manufacturers and hospitality companies in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the USA, Canada and Europe.

“While some companies have made commendable efforts to eliminate deforestation, land conversion and human rights abuse from their palm oil supply chains, palm oil buyers as a whole can and should do much more to deliver impact at scale and at pace,” the report said.

With companies scoring an average of 13.2 points out of 24, the report said the 2021 scorecard was a “stark reminder” of the progress that still had to be made.

The report’s top performers included retailer Coop Switzerland, chocolatier Ferrero, furniture retailer IKEA, British department store John Lewis and confectionery giant Mars.

According to the report, half of respondents were still not sourcing 100% Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO), despite the ready supply of RSPO CSPO and availability of several supply chain options.

African and Asian respondents had the lowest uptake of RSPO-certified palm oil volumes, with only 23% of their reported volumes being certified, according to the report. This compared to a global average of RSPO CSPO uptake of 67%.

Meanwhile, although the majority of respondents had committed to sourcing palm oil that was free of deforestation and human rights abuse, as few as 9% of respondents applied their commitments to all ecosystems at risk, while only 13% had commitments that protected the rights of all stakeholders who might be negatively impacted by palm oil production.

The scorecard also revealed that a large number of companies continued to avoid all responsibility and accountability, with more than a third (85) of the 227 companies WWF approached failing to provide any information on their palm oil usage and sustainability efforts.

On a more positive note, 52% of companies were taking action beyond their supply chains by actively participating in sustainability platforms aimed at driving industry-wide change, according to the report.

Similarly, the report showed that 39% of respondents were investing in projects aimed at supporting real change on the ground in palm oil-producing landscapes such as smallholder capacity building and forest protection.

“The rapid progress made by several scorecard respondents across a variety of sectors and markets shows that sustainable palm oil is achievable, no matter where a company might be on its sustainability journey,” the WWF report summary said.

The WWF said governments in both producer and consumer countries, alongside the finance sector and consumers, had a key role to play in promoting palm oil supply chains that protected forests, natural ecosystems and local communities.