You may not realize it but palm oil is one of the world’s most used vegetable oils. It is hiding in approximately 40-50% of common consumer products under the name vegetable oil. Palm oil can be found in baked goods, shampoo, cosmetics, toothpaste, and many household products.
Although its structure is quite similar to coconut oil and thus good for our health, it has a tremendous impact on the environment and all its inhabitants. Palm oil production violates many environmental, animal and human rights. It is one of the cheapest oils out there and companies continue to use this highly destructive vegetable oil.
Efforts have been made to set up a sustainable palm oil industry through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), but unfortunately palm oil supply chains are hard to track and violations to their standards are inevitable. This is a huge problem for the companies who joined the RSPO and claim to sustainably source their palm oil.
The RSPO is a step in the right directions but real change and strict inspections are still needed before we can state that sustainable palm oil exists.
Until then it is best to avoid all products that contain palm oil and here are 5 good reason why:
The demand for this cheap vegetable oil has doubled over the past decades and it is still on the rise. This higher demand means pristine, carbon capturing tropical rainforests in South-East Asia have to make room for more plantations.
To give you an idea, every hour the size of 300 football fields is cleared in Malaysia and Indonesia alone. And the worst part, this is all done with the support of the government. It is them that sell the ground to wealthy foreigners who first log the precious hardwoods and then burn the rest to the ground to make room for palm oil.
2. Contributes To Climate Change
This large industry contributes to climate change on many levels. It destroys the carbon capturing tropical rainforest, pollutes and erodes rivers, produces toxic smoke and is one of the biggest contributors to the emission of greenhouse gasses.
3. Driving Endangered Species To Extinction
Burning forests down to the ground not only impacts the climate or environment, together with the trees all its inhabitants die as well. These tropical forest are the home of many endangered species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants, rhinos, and sun bears. They have been found burned alive or killed by poachers for their skin or ivory.
4. Child Labor
Locals, including thousands of children, are hired to work on these palm oil plantations for very little pay and in unsafe conditions. Many of them end up in the palm oil production through debt bondage or human trafficking.
5. Short Term Solution
And another thing why we should say NO to palm oil altogether…. Palm oil can never be a long term sustainable solution. After 20 to 40 years the soil will be depleted of all its nutrients and it will no longer be suitable to grow palm fruits or any other crop. So in the long term it will only lead to more deforestation.
The only way how this cruelty and deforestation can stop is through raising our voice and stop buying products that contain palm oil.
For a full report and overview of companies who make commitments to address the deforestation associated with the palm oil, click here.