For every tonne of palm oil/palm kernel oil we use in the production of ecostore products we pay a voluntary premium to a palm oil producer which is operating within the RSPO's (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) strict guidelines for social and environmental responsibility.
GreenPalm is a certificate trading programme which is designed to tackle environmental and social problems created by the production of palm oil. Exclusively endorsed by the RSPO it works on the principle that the best way to encourage people to work in a sustainable and responsible way is to reward them for it. Source: http://www.greenpalm.org/
Below are some answers to common questions about palm oil and the way it's used:
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is an edible form of vegetable oil obtained from the seeds of the oil palm, prevalent in Indonesia and Malaysia where 80% of the world's supply of palm oil is produced. Palm oil goes by many names which can make it difficult to identify, such as:
- Emulsifier 422
- Cetyl palmitate and octyl palmitate
- Elaesis guineensis
- Hexadecyclic or palmitic acid
- Hydrated palm glycerides
- Palm oil kernel
Why not use coconut oil?
We don't believe that switching to coconut oil is a viable solution as it would take twice as much rain forest land to produce enough oil if everyone made the same switch.
What is palm oil used for?
It has been used in a variety of ways since ancient times and is a common ingredient in everyday food products such as biscuits, crackers, pet food, chocolate, spreads, sauces, muesli bars, potato chips and to a lesser extent in cleaning products such as bar soaps, detergents and cosmetics. Palm oil derivatives are used in food product for a few reasons, for example it helps create the smooth consistency in food items such as margarine; and in cleaning products it works as a surfactant (cleaning agent). Some ecostore products contain surfactants that are derived from components of palm oil or PKO(palm kernel oil).
How prevalent is the use of palm oil?
If you were to look in any supermarket, about half of the items on the shelves would contain some form of palm oil. 80-85% of the global palm oil production supplies the food and animal feed industries. The fastest-growing use for palm oil, at about 7%, is to generate energy and produce biodiesel. This is something we should all be concerned about, as the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says, the resulting deforestation produces a carbon footprint much higher than fossil fuels. Between 5-10% of palm oil is used to manufacture soaps, detergents, cosmetics and for technical applications. A percentage of this is used as ingredients in household products such as ours.
What's so bad about palm oil?
Increased demand for palm oil has seen vast areas of natural rainforest in Indonesia and Malaysia destroyed to make way for palm oil plantations. Burning-off these forests releases huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. It's estimated that two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere each year through the drainage and burning of peatland forest. Approximately 90% of those emissions come from Indonesia, making it the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Another devastating outcome that has captured public attention recently is the effect this has on the Orangutan. Large-scale clearing of peatland forest displaces this endangered creature from its natural rainforest habitat, threatening its survival.
Is unsustainable harvesting a new problem?
Palm oil has been produced sustainably since the mid 19th Century and supported the livelihood of millions of Malaysians. Unfortunately, global demand for it has become imbalanced in recent years as the benefits of palm oil have been exploited. The direct impact on the environment, native species and local communities is a real cause for concern and action. The challenge is to segregate the supply of palm oil derivatives from sustainably sourced palm oil.
What is ecostore doing?
We are one of two NZ companies who are affiliate members of the RSPO, a body tasked with ensuring responsible and sustainable palm oil production. As a member, ecostore is able to provide input and monitor any advances the RSPO has in its initiatives to prevent deforestation and protect peatland. The RSPO has come under attack in the past for being ineffective, with Greenpeace even going so far as to say that several of its members were illegally clearing rainforests. The challenge with any voluntary body is that some participants may not be as ethically-minded as others. In the absence of any other governing body, we support the RSPO and believe that actively engaging in a governing body at the point of actual production is the best way to position ourselves to affect positive change. We continue to work with Cognis, our main surfactant supplier, to provide palm oil/PKO products derived from sources that are certified as sustainable.
Can ecostore guarantee that it uses sustainable palm oil?
Our major plant-based ingredients supplier, Cognis, purchases palm oil on our behalf via international commodity markets. We are satisfied that Cognis is committed to sustainable manufacturing practices. In 2000, Cognis became the first specialty chemicals supplier to obtain worldwide ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certifications for quality and environmental management systems. Cognis can not yet guarantee certified sustainable palm oil as infrastructure in the supply chain does not yet provide 100% clarity around point of origin. However, they are working to make this happen.
Why not use a palm oil alternative like Cadbury has?
Many alternatives to palm oil, such as sunflower or rape seed oil, have significant environmental problems, contributing to global warming. Sustainable palm oil is a far more environmentally responsible solution, as its yield per square metre is significantly higher, meaning far less land is required for farming. The other alternative to palm oil is a petrochemical, but this is unsustainable and potentially hazardous to health. Petrochemicals are extracted from finite resources with questionable extraction processes that negatively impact on local communities and the global environment alike. We believe we should focus as much energy as possible on ensuring palm oil is once again completely sustainably produced, and balance is restored to the ecosystem, for the benefit of the greater community and our planet.
What can I do to help?
Put pressure on companies to be more transparent about the ingredients they use on their packaging and where they are sourcing their palm oil. Put pressure on companies to ensure they are sourcing palm oil that is produced sustainably. Your voice counts. The more noise consumers make, the more noise companies will make to their manufacturing partners.