It was World Orangutan Day on 19th August and that got us thinking about Palm Oil.
Palm Oil is an incredibly popular vegetable oil that is derived from the palm fruit, grown on the African oil palm tree. It was originally from Western Africa but can grown wherever heat and rainfall are plentiful. Today, Palm Oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America and South Africa. But a whopping 85% of all palm oil is produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia and usually not by sustainable measures.
That’s where the problem lies.
Very, very few farms are growing and producing palm oil sustainably leading to immense deforestation across the world and many animals losing their natural habitats.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rain forest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. This large-scale deforestation is pushing many species to extinction, and findings show that if nothing changes species like the orangutan could become extinct in the wild within the next 5-10 years, and Sumatran tigers less than 3 years.
Palm Oil accounts for over 30% of the world’s vegetable oil production, that equates to tends of millions of tons!
It’s one of the most popular vegetable oils taking up 40-50% of homes in developed countries so we get it, where there is demand, there must be supply.
Palm Oil is also one of the key ingredients in some cosmetics and personal care products, tending to be the cheaper brands. Why do they use Palm Oil? It’s a skin condition agent and can be used to increase the viscosity of products.
But there is a better way of doing this. Palm Oil can be made sustainable but it’s more expensive to do it this way and in turn, more expensive for the retailers buy. Supermarket Iceland have said they will not contain any Palm Oil in their own brand food from 2019. This is a great move in the right direction. Not all businesses will be able to afford the sustainably sourced palm oil so instead of causing more deforestation, they take the action to exclude it from their products.
The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) are the big name in the sustainable palm oil market and have become globally recognised by having around 40% of the worlds palm oil producers as members.
The RSPO rules for making the palm oil growers sustainable are below. You’ll notice there is nothing that prevents them from cutting down the vast amounts of trees and habitat, but it does force them to ‘responsible development of new plantings’.
I’m not totally sold, are you?