I find this an interesting conversation, as we use a number of Ecostore products in our house, and I often get comments from people reminding me about the fact that they use palm oil.
For a long time now I have been trying to avoid palm oil in everything that I use, as it is known for being one of the main contributors to deforestation and threatens wildlife, including the endangered Orangutan. The farming practices in some countries are often not very ethical either.
Having read that the Ecostore use sustainably certified palm oil in their products, I decided to do a bit of research into sustainable palm oil and what it actually means, so I could work out where I should stand on the issue, and it turns out that avoiding palm oil as a general rule is perhaps not as black and white as it might seem…
The impacts of palm oil on the environment, wildlife and exploited communities are well publicised, with many calling for the boycott of palm oil as a result. And understandably so - we shouldn’t be supporting companies which have no regard for our natural environment or people.
Image: © James Morgan / WWF-International
However, there are palm oil producers out there that are actively trying to change industry standards. According to WWF, sustainably sourced Palm oil protects and respects wildlife and the environment, and is free of deforestation and habitat conversion, planting on peat, and exploitation of communities.
And there is now more transparency in this space - the not-for-profit, RSPO, provides certification for sustainably sourced palm oil, and when complemented by other approaches and strong governance, can play a key role in ending irresponsible palm oil production.
An issue in New Zealand and Australia is that there is no legislation that says manufacturers need to clearly label “palm oil” as an ingredient, which doesn’t make it easy for us as the consumer. And it’s even harder to know if it is sourced sustainably.
As such, the calls to boycott the palm oil industry can also risk people avoiding sustainably sourced palm oil. One potential issue with completely boycotting all palm oil is that we run the risk of increasing deforestation and damaging the environment by not supporting change for the better. To put it another way, supporting sustainable palm oil creates the demand, driving industry change.
There is also the question around how sustainable 'sustainably sourced palm oil' is when compared to its alternatives, and while I need to do more research into this, the info graphic below from IUCN shows that it can be a good alternative to other vegetable oils.
Image from IUCN - in Palm oil and biodiversity article
So for now, while I don’t disagree with either side, I have personally made a decision to support a business being transparent about their use of sustainably certified palm oil.
It would also be great if there was legislation requiring the clear labeling of Palm Oil, and whether it is sustainably certified or not.
But as we are all friends here, I’m curious to know what your thoughts on the matter are and if you are aware of sustainable palm oil?
You can find more information from WWF about Palm oil here.
Things to reads:
- 8 Things to know about Palm Oil - WWF
- Sustainable palm oil - Conservation International
- Sustainable palm oil is real. Now companies need to be forced to use it - The Spinoff
- RSPO - The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
- EcoStore Our palm oil policy