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Are we losing momentum in the campaign against Palm Oil?

March 14, 2019

Amaranthine is the first skincare company in the world to get a Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark. All of our products are palm oil free, something that I’m immensely proud of. The trademark is relatively new but hopefully one day it will be as recognisable as cruelty free trademarks such as Leaping Bunny.

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is an oil derived from the fruit of the African Oil Palm Tree. The Palm Tree is native to West Africa but now grows in huge plantations in tropical climates. Indonesia and Malaysia produce more that three quarters of the worlds palm oil.

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, used extensively in the food and cosmetic industry. It’s appeal is that it is an incredibly versatile oil and is cheap to produce bringing wealth to some of the poorest countries in the world. One hectare of a palm oil plantation is able to produce up to ten times more oil than other oil seed crops.

These days it’s hard to get away from palm oil. According to Greenpeace it’s in half of all the packaged food in your supermarket. It provides the foaming agent in most shampoos, soaps and detergents. Derivatives of palm oil are found in many cosmetics, from lipstick to  face cream.

The problem with Palm Oil

Large plantations are needed to supply our ever increasing demand for palm oil. Palm oil is a lucrative business. To make way for these plantations, virgin tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Indonesia has the highest deforestation rate in the world.

The consequences are devastating. Many wildlife species, including the Orangutang, Sumatran tigers and rhinos are critically endangered and facing extinction. The Orangutang has lost 90% of its rainforest home already and is also being actively killed by palm oil industry workers 😢

The problem affects humans as well - indigenous communities are being displaced and persecuted. Locals are exploited for cheap labour. Deforestation releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, contributing to climate change. Large scale burning of forests causes air pollution.

Why we chose to become CERTIFIED Palm Oil Free company

Although it’s virtually impossible to live palm oil free these days, I’m passionate about trying to reduce my palm oil consumption. When I started Amaranthine I knew it had to be a palm oil free skincare range. In 2018 Palm Oil Free Certification became available for UK companies and I wasted no time in applying for certification.

The Palm Oil Free Trademark means that consumers can be confident that products are genuinely palm oil and palm oil derivative free. This is important because it isn’t that easy to know if a product is palm oil free. You can be diligent and check the ingredient list but did you know that there are hundreds of cosmetic ingredients that are derived from palm oil and have a totally different name? Glycerine for example is found in many cosmetics. Glycerine is a by-product of the soap making process and usually comes from either coconut or... palm oil. The ingredient list just says Glycerine, not which oil it is derived from.

If a product has a Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark it has met stringent certification requirements.

Sustainable Palm Oil - is there such a thing?

This is a debatable topic. Personally, I’m dubious about sustainable palm oil.

In 2004 The Round Table For Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil. Its members are made up of palm oil producers, processors, traders and environmental organisations.

The effectiveness of the RSPO is frequently debated. The Environmental Investigation Agency found the RSPO to be failing to deliver on its promise. Standards are set too low. Punishment for companies that breach guidelines is minimal. Crucially, evidence is mounting that the RSPO is unable to stop the corruption between growers, auditors and government officials. It seems that claims of sustainable palm oil are often misleading as it is very difficult to make sure palm oil is being sustainably produced. Palm oil has one of the most complicated supply chains any ingredient.

According to Greenpeace, one of the biggest producers of palm oil in the world, despite being a member of the RSPO, has been linked to purchasing illegally grown palm, forest fires, illegal forest felling, violating rights of local populations.

There are experts who insist that it is wrong to boycott palm oil altogether because other oil crops would need even more land to produce the same amount of oil. This is true, but other substitute oils like Rapeseed and Sunflower can grow in less eco-sensitive temperate countries.

What we can do

The Christmas Iceland advert that started so many palm oil conversations is becoming a distant memory but it’s important to not stop talking, debating and educating ourselves about the palm oil issue. Look out for the Palm Oil Free Trademark and support these companies 😃

There is no doubt that the palm oil issue is extremely complex. Palm oil is already deeply engrained into the consumer economy and its going to be extremely difficult to remove it.

However, if  we keep going they way we are, all the rainforests and the creatures that live in then will be gone. I don’t know about you, but this is a scenario I hope we don’t have to face.

Natural skincare brand Amaranthine's founder, Sarah Rueger.

Sarah Rueger

About the author

Sarah is the founder of certified palm oil free natural skincare brand Amaranthine. She is a qualified organic skincare formulator and has diplomas in Beauty Therapy and Clinical Aromatherapy.