Press release: ‘Boycotts and bans are not the solution to creating a sustainable edible fats and oils sector’, says new cross-sector coalition report  

Global multi-stakeholder initiative, the Edible Fats and Oils Collaboration, urges the food and feed industry to advocate for new policy that considers the sustainability aspects of all fats and oils in one holistic system, instead of vilifying individual ingredients.  


LONDON, 7 JULY 2021 – Boycotts and bans on specific fats and oils are an oversimplified solution to a complex problem, reveals a new report published today by multi-stakeholder initiative, the Edible Fats and Oils Collaboration.  

The “Breaking down fats and oils” report calls on food businesses to view fats and oils, such as palm oil, soybean and dairy butter, not in isolation, but as part of a bigger, holistic system in order to create sustainable supply chains and future-proof against climate change. 

The Edible Fats and Oils Collaboration is convened by Forum for the Future and its members include Volac Wilmar, M&S Unilever, Upfield, and NGOs WWF-UK and IUCN-NL.

In a world-first, the report analyses all the major vegetable oils and animal fats consumed globally as one system, presenting a comparison of their environmental, social, nutritional and financial impacts. It argues that nuance, context and in-depth assessment are needed to assess all factors, both positive and negative, associated with each ingredient.  

Currently, we risk worsening the environmental and social impacts of the fats and oils we use every day, calling on the food industry, the report highlights that:

  • all vegetable oils and animal fats present both advantages and disadvantages. Focusing on single crops, and substituting one oil for another, may produce unintended negative impacts elsewhere;
  • the food system’s entire value chain must align around the same goal: feeding a growing population in a way that’s nutritious, equitable and within planetary boundaries;
  • demand for oil crops is rising, largely driven by continued growth in both population and diets containing a greater proportion of processed foods and animal products. Companies should consider whether the products they are using fats and oils in support positive nutritional outcomes, rather than exacerbate challenges like obesity and cardio-vascular disease;
  • millions of people around the world rely on growing oil crops for their livelihood. However, too many of them live in poverty and work in extremely poor conditions;
  • the expansion of oil crop production onto areas of native vegetation affects indigenous peoples and local communities who may be evicted from the land and lose their livelihoods.
  • The climate crisis will add further 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 oil sustainability requires collaboration across whole landscapes and jurisdictions. This will need all actors across the value chain to invest and to do so more equitably throughout the entire supply chain.

Ivana Gazibara, Head of Futures, Forum for the Future, said, “The food system’s entire value chain must align around the same goal: feeding a growing population in a way that is healthy and allows people and planet to thrive. Edible fats and oils play an integral part in this food system, but the debate has been siloed and disjointed. 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. We believe that this report provides a specific starting point for food companies to do exactly that.”

The global edible oils market had a value of around US$97billion in 2019, which is expected to rise to around US$119 billion by the end of 2025[1].The vegetable oils market is anticipated to grow by 3.3% per year between 2020 and 2027[2], largely driven by continued growth in both population and diets containing these commodities.

Andy Richardson, Head of Corporate Affairs at Volac Wilmar, said, “This report brings balance to an often binary and emotional debate. It challenges the current overly simplistic approach to edible fats and oils which will inevitably lead to unintended consequences and policy making which will hold back our progress in achieving a truly secure, sustainable and healthy food system. As such, learnings from this report are critical to all those that operate in the global food supply chain and it provides valuable insight for businesses that want to do the right thing for their stakeholders.”

Sally Smith, Head of Sustainability at Upfield, said, “Our food system is complex, and simple solutions are rarely the best solutions. We urge policy makers, the food industry, and stakeholders across the value chain to use the findings in this report to improve the environmental impact of all the major fats and oils in our food system. With this nuanced assessment of the interconnected benefits and disadvantages of the fats and oils we consume on a daily basis, we can eventually achieve sustainable production, healthy consumption and economic wellbeing in our food system.”     

Heleen van den Hombergh, Senior Advisor Agrocommodity Governance, IUCN-NL, said, “EU governments, financial institutions and companies all have to take into account the interrelatedness of the edible oil crops on the global market, especially their ecological and social connections. From the Indonesian tropical forests to European forests, there's a need to focus on sustainable production and consumption rather than exclusion, as no one oil crop is the sole problem or silver bullet to sustainable land use or fair trade.”

Sabrina Goncalves Krebsbach, Agricultural Commodities Specialist, WWF-UK, said, “Conversations about the sustainability of edible fats and oils can cause heated debate – with palm oil, in particular, having a terrible reputation because of its links to the destruction of precious forests and peatlands – but ill-advised substitutions can lead to even worse environmental consequences. For example, producing equivalent amounts of alternative oils such as soybean or coconut oil would require four to ten times more land, shifting the problem to other parts of the world and threatening other habitats and species.” 

“Companies must step up their sustainability efforts and take a more holistic approach to sourcing edible fats and oils – ensuring they use or sell products that harm neither the environment, nor people. This report will help companies to make better informed, more sustainable sourcing decisions, considering all environmental, social, nutritional and financial impacts.”

The report is a call to action for the food Industry to set the sector’s future trajectory.

Ivana Gazibara, Forum for the Future, added, “Fundamentally, there is no such thing as a good or bad oil, there is only good and bad oil production and consumption. While there’s no simple, risk-free option, there are ways to make better choices that account for interconnected environmental, nutritional and social effects. 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.”


For more information, interviews, or comment, please email Ryan Lewis, Communications Consultant at Forum for the Future, [email protected]





The report was authored by the Edible Fats and Oils Collaboration, a global multi-stakeholder initiative that focuses on accelerating the sustainable production and use of edible fats and oils.

Its founding members are leading international sustainability not-for-profit, Forum for the Future; Volac Wilmar Feed Ingredients; independent conservation organisation, WWF-UK; multi-national retailer M&S, global fmcg company, Unilever; global leading plant-based nutrition company, Upfield; and international nature organisation, IUCN National Committee of the Netherlands. 

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

What is sustainability?  

Forum for the Future’s definition of sustainability is: “Sustainability is a dynamic process which enables all people to realise their potential and to improve their quality of life in ways that simultaneously protect and enhance the Earth’s life support system.” 

About Forum for the Future 

Forum for the Future is a leading international sustainability non-profit. For 25 years we’ve been working in partnership with business, governments and civil society to accelerate the transformation toward a just and regenerative future. We use our systems change and futures expertise to help tackle critical global challenges: the climate emergency, transforming our food and farming systems, and ensuring supply chains are more resilient and more equitable. We also enable long-term, transformative change by equipping individuals and organisations to act more systemically. Find out more at or by following @Forum4theFuture on Twitter.

[1] Global Edible Oil Market - Forecasts from 2020 to 2025, July 2020, Knowledge Sourcing Intelligence LLP