Palm Oil

The single greatest threat facing orangutans today is habitat loss. The average annual rate of forest loss in Indonesia was 498,000 hectares (FAO, 2010) from 2000–2010, or the equivalent of over 55 rugby fields per hour.

The expanding palm oil industry has been a key driver of this deforestation.  In the decade to 2010, Indonesian plantation area nearly doubled to close to 8 million hectares and is expected to near 13 million hectares by 2020 (PWC, 2012).

The BOS Foundation sees the result of the palm oil industry expansion on a daily basis. It rescues and releases orangutans displaced from their natural habitat. Those not able to be immediately translocated are cared for at centres in Central and East Kalimantan. BOS relies on donations to fund the care and reintroduction of these orangutans to areas of safe, secure natural habitat.

What is palm oil?

Palm Oil Fruit

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil and comes from the fruit of the oil palm.  Today palm oil accounts for 35% of the world’s edible vegetable oil production (USDA, 2013) with 85% of this sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia. The majority of palm oil (about 80%) is used in the food industry either as a vegetable oil or embedded in other ingredients. It can be found in many processed foods including ice cream, chocolate, chips, cereals, frozen foods, margarine, baked goods (biscuits, cakes and breads) and even fruit juice.  It may appear on labels as vegetable oil or be even less visible as a component of other ingredients. Palm oil also occurs widely in personal care, cosmetic and household products including soap, toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, laundry powders and detergents.  Around 2% is used as a feedstock for biofuels (Net Balance Foundation, 2013).

Today Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil, with Malaysia a close second.

What is sustainable palm oil?

About 14% of palm oil production is now certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO).  This oil has been produced according to a set of environmental and social criteria designed to ensure the rights of local communities are respected and that no new primary forests or high conservation value areas are cleared for palm oil production since November 2005.

CSPO can be sold via one of four different supply chains:

  1. Identity-preserved CSPO from a single source kept separate throughout the supply chain
  2. Segregated CSPO from diverse sources but remains physically separated from non-certified palm oil throughout the supply chain
  3. Mass Balance CSPO, which allows the mixing of CSPO and non-certified palm oil and allows the user to claim contribution to the production of CSPO, and
  4. Book and Claim CSPO which is a certificate trading system (GreenPalm) which allows the buyer to pay a premium to the CSPO producer but continue to buy non-certified palm oil.

Take up of CSPO has been disappointingly slow with only about 50% of the certified sustainable palm oil sold. Examples of Australian manufacturers using certified sustainable palm oil are currently few and far between.

Due to the growing awareness within the general public, increasing pressure has been applied to corporations.  This has meant that in recent years a number of major retailers and manufacturers are now committed to moving to CSPO.

For an up-to-date list of whether individual products contain palm oil, see the Palm Oil Investigations app.

BOS Australia’s position on palm oil

BOS Australia’s palm oil policy supports the use of identity-preserved and segregated certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). We believe its adoption is achievable in the Australian market if sufficient consumer pressure is brought to bear.  We acknowledge that the shift to sustainable production and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification process is not without its issues, however, we believe it remains the most acceptable solution currently available.

BOSA’s overarching objective is to protect Orangutans and to stop deforestation as a result of palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia.

We wish to achieve this objective through the following strategies.

1. Inform and mobilise the Australian public

Accurately informing the public about the impact of unsustainable palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia is one of BOSA’s core objectives. We have made a sincere commitment to providing the latest research on the issues involved through the use of internet-based resources, newspaper and magazine articles, and communication with other NGOs.

We aim to provide the public with all the resources they need to generate positive change in the palm oil industry.

2. Lobby for the transparent labelling of palm oil

BOSA advocates for the mandatory labelling of palm oil on all products manufactured in Australia. It is crucial that consumers be given a choice to purchase sustainably produced alternatives to generic products that contain ingredients from destructive sources.

In order to achieve the mandatory labelling of palm oil, we encourage the Ministerial Council to amend the FSANZ code which regulates labelling in Australia and New Zealand. The Australian governments’ own independent review recommended palm oil is labelled. This is currently under technical review.

3. Lobby for the use of sustainable palm oil 

In order to change corporate practices on the sourcing and labelling of palm oil, we continually remind companies about the issue. We encourage companies to source only RSPO certified sustainable Palm oil (CSPO segregated and not a lesser certification).

Notes of caution:

  • Manufacturers may claim to be using sustainable palm oil because they are members of or are supplied by members of the RSPO. However, this in itself is no guarantee as members only need to commit to working towards producing a sustainable product.
  • Producers may have some facilities which are supplying certified sustainable palm oil but others which do not fit the criteria. Not all their oil will, therefore, be sustainable.

What can I do about palm oil?

There are a number of things you can do:

  • Contact manufacturers directly and ask why they are using

    Palm Oil Free Products

    palm oil and if it’s certified.

  • Check the ingredients – if the product contains palm oil (usually labelled as vegetable oil or fat), check to see if it has the CSPO logo or contact the manufacturer to get details on the oil’s source. If it’s not CSPO, seek an alternative product and let the manufacturer know why you’ve chosen not to buy the product.
  • Use our palm oil free product list that may help you in your buying decisions.
  • Download the Palm Oil Investigations Scanner App and use when shopping to identify products that use CSPO palm oil or are palm oil free.
  • Letters, protest postcards and petitions all play a part in informing the manufacturers and government that the community wants change.
  • Inform your family, friends and colleagues of the issue.
  • A number of groups would welcome your support in campaigning for truth in labelling and protection of the rainforest:

Palm oil resources

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allows palm oil to be labelled simply as ‘vegetable oil’ and indeed its presence can be even less visible as many of the minor components of a product – e.g. colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers and humectants – are commonly palm oil derived.

If the saturated fat content is around 50%, the likelihood of the vegetable oil being palm oil is high.

In cosmetics, palm oil is labelled as Elaeis guineensis but as with the food industry, its presence is often less obvious. Any ingredient which includes the word ‘palm’ (e.g. palmitate, palmitoyl, or simply palm) includes palm oil. Other ingredients which commonly, but not always, use palm oil include: cetyl alcohol, isopropyl, sodium lauryl sulphate, steareths, fatty alcohol sulphates, glycerine, cocoa butter equivalent and cocoa butter substitute.

How do I make an informed choice?

BOS Australia has put together a list of products which manufacturers tell us are palm oil free or contain segregated certified sustainable palm oil. We have targeted those food categories which are particularly suspect – i.e. biscuits, processed foods, chocolates, snacks, etc. – as well as personal care items.

Some things to consider when reviewing this list:

  • The list is not all inclusive and there may well be other products in the categories covered which are palm oil free – if you know of any, please send details through to us at palmoil@orangutans.com.au
  • Where labelling is not definitive, we have attempted to confirm the information in this list through letters from our supporters to the manufacturers.
  • The list is not an official accreditation of suppliers’ claims as we do not conduct independent product testing. There are heavy penalties for making false claims on the packaging so when a supplier claims ‘No Palm Oil’, we take that as an honest and informed claim.
  • Nearly all Australian manufacturers contacted informed us that where products did contain palm oil, it was from sustainable sources. Membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil alone is not a sufficient guarantee of sustainability. RSPO certification is a more demanding standard but we are yet to uncover many Australia producers sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.
  • Product specifications can change – please advise us if you suspect palm oil to be in any of the products on our list.
  • The list is based on the specification for products sold in Australia. International brands may have different specifications in different countries – for example, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate in the UK does contain palm oil.
  • The list is based on a product-by-product basis rather than at company level. Many companies listed manufacture other products that do contain palm oil.
  • If we haven’t covered the category you’re interested in, Auckland Zoo’s shopping guide may provide a starting point. There are many familiar brand and product names although you should check the label in case formulations are different between the two countries.

Palm Oil Free and CSPO Product List

 

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