brown monkey hanging on tree branch

Something we have seen in the press a lot over the past few years and is one of the world’s most demonised oils.

Why?

Palm oil is in nearly 50% of packaged stuff you can find in a general supermarket, from pizzas to shampoo. For many of us, it is hard to go a day without consuming it in some sense, whether we realise it or not.

It’s a super versatile (and edible) vegetable oil that comes from the oil of palm trees.

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) has suggested that about 300 football fields of forest are cleared every hour to make way for palm oil plantations which equates to more than 2 million hectares per year.

Here are some fast facts, some more surprising than others:

  • Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests
  • It threatens habitats of endangered species like the orang-utan
  • It is a very efficient crop – to produce the same amount of oil for coconut oil it could take up 4-10 times more land which then is just shifting the problem to other parts of the world and potentially endangering more species
  • Good news – palm oil can be bought from sustainable sources
  • In 2012 the UK government recognised the need to do more – and so set a commitment for 100% of the palm oil used in the UK to be from sustainable sources that don’t harm nature or people. 75% of imported palm oil to the UK was sustainable in 2016[1] (sorry I can’t find a more recent figure, will update when I do). This is very positive progress but more needs to be done to increase that number to 100%

What is sustainable palm oil?

In a nutshell – sustainable palm oil is to make businesses profitable and whilst in the process not harming any people or the environment. For this to be achieved, companies that use sustainable palm oil have created green policies that promise no deforestation, no peat development, and no exploitation (NDPE).

There is a generally agreed global standard set by the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which is made up of oil palm growers, retailers, NGOs and manufacturers.[2]

There is a free app called Giki, recommended by WWF, where you can scan barcodes to see if the product uses sustainable palm oil.

[1] Statistics from WWF

[2] Information from BBC news website