Is Palm Oil Really Bad For The Environment?
The most common questions we receive about our soaps are concerning palm oil. This article is a simple overview of what is going on in the world of palm oil production. Hopefully, it will help to alleviate some of your concerns.
Palm oil is the most common vegetable oil in the world. Almost fifty percent of the products purchased in your supermarket contain palm oil. This includes food, shampoo, soap, bread, lipstick and more. However, the environmental impact of this oil’s production continues to be a hot topic of debate. Since it is one of the natural ingredients we use in our authentic French Soap, we thought we would address the concerns.
What Is Palm Oil?
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, both for food and as a product additive. Originally native to Africa, one crop of palm oil can produce up to one-third the amount of oil of other common vegetable oils – including coconut, corn, and rapeseed. Also, palm oil crops require fewer pesticides and chemical fertilisers, making palm oil a clean, green, sustainable, and efficient plant. So, what are the biggest concerns?
What Is The Concern With Palm Oil?
When farmed with integrity, palm oil is a far more sustainable crop than all other vegetable oils. However, farmers throughout many areas of Malaysia and Indonesia have been legally and illegally burning rainforests to plant their crops. This irresponsible clearing results in the release of toxic greenhouse emissions endangering rare species. It is also responsible for displacing both wildlife and indigenous families. Although native to Africa, due to the widespread clearing of crops, these two countries alone now produce over 85% of the world’s supply.
Ensuring Sustainable Palm Oil
The world’s demand for more of this versatile oil means that the production of palm oil is expected to more than double over the next 5 years. This is leaving many environmentalists concerned about the further impact to the ecosystems and communities affected by deforestation. Organizations from around the globe have joined forces to put systems in place to ensure suppliers are farming on previously cleared land or land that does not require deforestation. A group called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is leading this initiative. They are working with partners such as the WWF, Greenpeace, and the UN. They also work in close collaboration with Asia’s largest oilseed processing companies and organisations such as Wilmar International and United Plantations. A few significant strides have been made thus far:
- In 2013, Wilmar International signed a 100 percent zero-deforestation agreement. Since Asia is where the deforestation occurs, this was a significant step in the right direction.
- In 2014, the EU changed laws to require products to clearly state if palm oil is present. Companies can no longer display the all-encompassing “vegetable oil” on their labels.
- The partners have introduced a certification process to help protect the environment from further damage. Many global companies have committed to purchasing from farms who meet the strict guidelines for sustainable farming. Just look for the RSPO or Greenpeace label.
- Farmers in tropical climates which are conducive to palm oil farming are expanding their crops on the already cleared land.
Commit to Sustainability
The strides mentioned above have already slowed the rate of deforestation, as well as the revenue stream for irresponsible farmers. So, instead of trying to eliminate palm oil products in your home, which would be almost impossible, ensure the products you buy are committed to sourcing their oil responsibly, and you will be buying one of the most sustainable oil crops in the world. Just look for the RSPO or Green Palm Label. The labels on our bar soap are too small to fit the sustainable certification, but Natural French soap ensures all of our palm oil is sustainably certified. You can see a copy of our RSPO certification here.
Did you have concerns about palm oil? Has this article made things clearer for you? If you have any comments, please leave them below, I would love to hear your thoughts.
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