Now, before you start throwing rocks at me, I would like to clarify: don’t “Say NO to Palm Oil!” but rather “Say YES to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil!”
I admit that I was a proponent of “Say No to Palm Oil” until a friend of mine asked me “well, what would we use instead?” Good question! Replacing palm oil with alternative plant oil sources such as soybean or rapeseed oil would potentially cause more damage as these plantations require more land, soil and crop treatments and energy to produce an equivalent amount of oil. Also, palm oil is almost everywhere…It is used in countless food products, make-up, toiletries…etc. etc. Plus, it often hides under the pseudonym of ‘vegetable oils’, and is absent from ingredients lists on packaging (the EU requires the proper labelling, and all products containing palm oil, must clearly state it).
So, here is what I think… We should not really “Say NO to Palm Oil!”, because it is needed; it is hard to replace without causing even more issues for the environment and there are countries that depend on its economic value. What I believe we could do as shoppers is to use our consumer power and support brands and companies which use sustainably sourced palm oil.
Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is palm oil which has been produced as per the principles set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). At present, only about 18% of the world’s palm oil is CSPO. This figure must be increased, and the best way for us to help is to show support to those companies who are taking the lead in supporting sustainable plantations. Be aware of what you are buying, and fair enough not everyone has time to look at product packaging with a magnifying glass, but hey, I will do the hard work for you this time (the CSPO aligned shopping list will be in another post)!
Now, there is another little issue, and that is the nature of certification… Please take a look at the image below to understand the levels of certification a bit better, but in essence we should all be doing our very best to support companies who use 100% sustainable palm oil. Not supporting them and just saying that we will boycott palm oil is a dangerous route to take, as there is then no incentive for companies to invest in securing sustainability certification.
Unless a company embraces corporate social responsibility and running their business sustainably, the likelihood is that they will always seek to find a more economically advantageous route; more often than not this will be buying supplies from a cheaper palm oil supplier who has produced their crop unsustainably. Boycotting could endanger even more animals and plants, their habitat and their future as well as the communities who depend on the industry.
‘Compromise’ is a key word here. I do not like the word at all, but I also appreciate its importance. We do not compromise on protecting nature, we find the best solution to help it and sometimes the best solution is not the one we had in mind at the beginning of the journey. Hearing both sides of a story and then deciding the best way to address an issue is important when making informed decisions and choices. I have decided not to boycott palm oil, but to support CSPO, whenever I must buy products which do contain palm oil. It is also up to us as consumers to ask for more transparency from the companies who own the brands we like to use, and by all means, let’s boycott those who fail to provide the information and tell them why we are doing it. Or not. The choice is yours.