Elaeis guineensis trees are native to Africa and are home to many wildlife who need them to survive. The trees have since spread across the globe and are harvested in over 42 countries worldwide to feed human mass consumption. Palm oil is harvested for the oil found in the fruit of palm trees and exists in approximately 50% of our package foods and products from chocolate to toothpaste and is used widely in food and products because of its versatility and long shelf-life.
The harvest for palm oil is a huge contributor to deforestation and destruction of natural habitats causing detrimental effects to the lives of animals and communities who live there especially in Indonesia and Malaysia who host almost half of these plantations. Trees and forests play an essential part in absorbing toxic carbon from the air we breathe and storing it. By killing these trees it emits their lifetime of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and therefore contributes dramatically to climate change. Not only this but it is also found to be unethical as there is the exploitation of workers and child labour as part of the production.
What we can do to try and mitigate these damages is shop more sustainably. Brands and companies now have to be more transparent with how and where they are sourcing palm oil from and therefore you can make a more justified decision on whether to support them or not. WWF has created a Palm Oil scorecard where you can identify brands that you usually find in your shopping basket and get a better understanding of how they source palm oil, you can find the site here.
The Palm oil problem was secretly under the radar until big brands brought it to our attention most significantly you may remember the Iceland campaign from Christmas 2018. They made a pledge to remove all palm oil from their own-brand products and to launch this released their Christmas video with the story of Rang Tan, which was shortly after banned, though their efforts towards a palm-oil free store continued and media coverage was huge.
Although this may seem mainly negative, the UK has actually come quite far already in its journey to meet a Government target of 100% sustainably sourced palm oil (that doesn’t cause harm to humans or nature), as 75% of this was met in 2016.
So where can Palm Oil be found in our every day (to name a few)?
Whilst scientists are continually finding alternatives that are more sustainable, you can already shop more efficiently to avoid palm oil but it requires your time and research. You may think your product is good to go but sadly palm oil is not necessarily clearly stated on the ingredients list as it has over 200 different versions and names so, therefore, it is not easy to spot. Instead, look for brands who actively promote being palm oil free or using sustainable palm oil in their products as they have an earth-friendly commitment that we want to encourage as consumers.
Palm Oil Friendly and Responsible Brands That We Love
These brand are either completely 100% free from Palm Oil, have a huge selection of Palm Oil Free products or use RSPO certified sustainable, Fairtrade or organic palm oil.