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Palm Oil is the world’s most popular vegetable oil and is found in 50% of supermarket food items, cosmetics and cleaning products. The discussion about Palm Oil has been growing for many years, and it is important for the consumer to understand its controversy, so we’ve compiled some information to help you make informed decisions about purchasing it.

Why Palm Oil is so widely used?

  • Growing efficiency.  High quantities of Palm Oil are easy to produce on small areas of land, almost all year round. 
  • VersatilityIts extreme versatility is responsible for its popularity in use. Palm Oil can be used in many ways and made into a wide range of products with different melting points, consistencies and characteristics.
  • Preservation. Palm Oil is resistant to oxidation, so is used in many items that need to be preserved.
  • Cost. Palm Oil is much cheaper than other oils (Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower & Soybean). Palm Oil requires less space to grow a greater amount of crops, therefore it is a lot cheaper to produce. Large companies who dominate the Palm Oil market have kept down the cost of the product in order to maintain the high demand.

Products that often contain Palm Oil

  • Shampoo. As well as many cosmetics, shampoo often contains Palm Oil. Even plastic-free, shampoo bars often contain Palm Oil. If you want to avoid Palm Oil in your haircare, we recommend using KIND2 Shampoo bars. KIND2 is another female owned, plastic-free business that eliminates the need to transport water. 
  • Makeup. Many beauty products contain Palm Oil, as it is a useful ingredient for preserving the shelf life.
  • Non-Dairy Milk and Margarine. Heading over to the Ethical Consumer website, is a great place to start looking for companies that do not use an Palm Oil in their manufacturing, if this is something you want to avoid. They provide a rating of sustainability and accreditations, for you to make your own decisions regarding your purchases.

Damage to the environment

  • Deforestation. Palm Oil is native to Africa, but now produced all over the world and mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia. Preparing the land for the growth of Palm Oil often requires mass deforestation. Deforestation furthers the endangerment of species such as orangutans and causes major disruption to habitats and ecosystems. Similarly, the use of burning as a means to deforest is common, releasing large amounts of pollutants into the atmosphere.
  • Damage to carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are areas of land, commonly found in forests, that absorb and hold large amounts of carbon in the soil. Deforestation causes major damage to carbon sinks, releasing millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which directly impacts global warming. Furthermore, this prevents any future carbon from being stored in the soil. 

Damage to the people

  • Indigenous communities are exploited.When significant tracts of land get seized for deforestation, it is likely that there are indigenous communities relying on that land for their livelihood. Vulnerable, indigenous communities often cannot defend their land and community meaning that they have no choice but to give it up to the giant corporations who want to farm the land. 
  • Slave Labour. The Palm Oil industry has been found to take advantage of slave labour and child labour. There are reports of children as young as eight carrying out hazardous tasks on Palm Oil plantations, having often dropped out of school to join their parents at work. Workers report getting paid below minimum wage and working in dangerous conditions, often obtaining serious injuries. The importance of regulating the Palm Oil industry is ever pressing, to avoid any further harm to people and the planet.

Sustainably sourced Palm Oil

  • RSPO certified. RSPO is the largest third-party certification standard that exists for the production of Palm Oil. The certification ensures that growers, small or large, abide by the same sustainability and social guidelines when farming Palm Oil. Only 19.3% of the world’s production of Palm Oil is RSPO certified. Therefore, when purchasing an item that contains Palm Oil, look for the RSPO certification to guarantee that the Palm Oil is sustainably and ethically sourced.
  • Small holdings. Palm Oil is sometimes farmed by indigenous people on small holdings. In this case, Palm Oil tends to be grown sustainably, with many small holdings RSPO certified. The farmers can earn a consistent income from growing Palm Oil, as it is a crop that can be grown all year round. Purchasing RSPO certified Palm Oil can help in supporting these farmers, although as many large corporations are also RSPO certified, it is not guaranteed that you will be directly supporting a small-holding grower. 
  • UK Government Commitment. In 2012 the UK government committed to sourcing 100% sustainably sourced Palm Oil, but in 2019 sustainably sourced Palm Oil imports were only at 70%. It would be fantastic if the UK could lead the movement to entirely sustainable Palm Oil, although this seems to be currently moving at a slow pace. A hugely grey area in Palm Oil imports is in animal feed, where Palm Oil remains a very common ingredient. It is unlikely that this is sustainably sourced Palm Oil, due to the cost-saving nature of the industry. Although this is an issue for farmers and the government to better regulate, it is crucially important for consumers to check the ingredients in pet food when making a purchase.

    At ekologik, we understand that sustainably sourced Palm Oil can be a really useful ingredient in manufacturing, however we choose not to use it as an ingredient.


      Sources: Oil-is-bad Oil/ Oil-front Oil Oil-problem-there-can-be-no-sustainable-development-without-indigenous-participation/ Oil-facts/ Oil-global-brands-profiting-from-child-and-forced-labour/

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