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The Problem With 'Sustainable' Palm Oil

We've all heard about the palm oil situation, it is certainly good that awareness is spreading. It's one of the many things that needs urgently addressing regarding the health of the Earth and the lives of many species that are suffering needlessly for mass human consumption and the uncaring profiteers running such projects.

We also hear a lot about whether RSPO certification is green washing and it's blogged to bits with countless debates on social media. It's all going around and around and it makes us dizzy. Well I feel I need to put this one to bed. Especially in the world of soap and cosmetics which I obviously play a very responsible and big part environmentally.

Many companies and brands are very open about using RSPO certified palm oil and there's a rhetoric of how stopping palm oil production will only be replaced with other oil yielding crops and deforestation will continue. The original statement came from Yusof Basiron, the CEO (at the time) of Malaysian Palm Oil Council but he did not have any scientific back up to support the claim, it is merely a hypothetical statement that does not address any alternative and pioneering ways to tackle the issue. Rather it defends the continued farming of palm oil which is only going to destroy more rainforest anyway.

Palm Oil Deforestation

It's amazing how many times I see companies and brands in my field of work pull the Yusof Basiron subterfuge and I feel very sad that they are justifying themselves to use a product directly harming the Earth in many ways. To me, it would be like saying, "Well I may as well use plastic packaging because it will still be made somewhere in the world." Then continue to contribute to ocean and land pollution while saying it. This is not progressive, it's lazy, selfish, backwards thinking.

The RSPO have their hands full. Indonesia’s government has very complex land rules, no centralised government concession database and are a fractal labyrinth of smoke and mirrors as a side show. The RSPO have to try and work with that. It must be like knitting fog. Also it isn't too difficult to worry that the organisation itself could possibly have a truck of tricksters, it's politics and money at the end of the day.

To begin with, RSPO Principles and Criteria, which are the rules and regulations for certified members does not require zero deforestation. They do defend this by saying they only allow it for disease control.

How many people know that the RSPO program possibly caused deforestation to rise during pre-certification of plantations? That is the burning of as much forest as possible to grow palm before the plantations were certified to avoid any later penalties. This is a possibility according to a trusted report on the Proceedings of the National Academy Of Scientists website. (The report's link is at the bottom of this article). However, detailed scientific reports such as this can't completely point the finger even though there is surmounting evidence that could be the case. The other issue is that RSPO award their certification on plantations that have destroyed 100% of their quota of forests and this is labelled as sustainable. How can it be sustainable when the rainforest has been destroyed to grow palm oil?

There is a nasty little loophole in the sustainable palm oil regulations that allow certified plantations accreditation by keeping parts of their plantations untouched. On paper that sounds decent enough but when you see that these pieces of forest are actually fragmented so much there is no corridor for wildlife and other biodiversity to move through. They become trapped in these oasis type environments. It actually sets up the wildlife to be poached and stolen that locals and plantations can pay to have done. This is because the trapped wildlife move onto the palm crops for food and are seen as agriculture pests.

Another thing, the wastage of this stuff, palm oil tends to go rancid very quickly and ridiculous amounts of the stuff get dumped into the oceans off cargo ships, washed up on the beaches and poisons wildlife and unsuspecting pet dogs. Who knows for sure whether the palm oil on those ships is from a RSPO certified plantation, a non certified plantation or both? Palm oil is not too dissimilar to it's plastic and fossil fuel friends, tearing up the Earth to produce unnecessary amounts of produce only to be dumped as toxic and deadly garbage on another part of the world. The RSPO have no active regulatory system on whether their certified palm oil ends up in the oceans or not.

Palm Oil Polluting Beach

I would rather stay away from the whole palm oil fiasco simply because it is an environmental disaster in motion for many years and I would rather my customers' money and my profits go towards protecting the Earth the best I can. I would also encourage everyone to do the same and ignore the Yusof Bosiron parroting from palm oil using businesses.

Did you also know that a larger percentage or deforestation is due to the meat industry, forests are destroyed to rear cattle and other animals and grow the food to feed them? So the palm oil is very important but going vegan has a huge positive impact. The vegan movement is gathering momentum, it's a wonderful thing. Personally I turned vegan in mid 2012, the same year Little Blue Hen Soap was created, a vegan business from the word go. I am constantly progressing to improve sustainability and treading on the Earth as gently as possible in all areas of the business. This involves keeping in contact with suppliers for up to date information on raw ingredient supplies, where they come from and what it used in their materials. This can be both time consuming and frustrating but whatever I do I am making sure I deliver to you products that are as ethical as I can possibly make. Greenwashing is rampant in all markets, especially in the cosmetic industry but as a small business owner and cosmetics formulator I want to deliver integrity to you because you beleive in this as much as I do.

Here's the link to the report. There is also a choice to download the PDF on the webpage.

Effect of oil palm sustainability certification on deforestation and fire in Indonesia


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