Palm oil is found in roughly 50 per cent of all packaged products on supermarket shelves including shampoos, baking oil, chocolate, cosmetics, chips, cookies, margarine and soaps.
Unfortunately, not only does palm oil promote heart disease, but the vast plantations that grow oil palm trees have contributed to the destruction of the rainforest of South East Asia and threaten the survival of animals such as the Orangutan in Borneo, the Sumatran tiger, and Asian rhinoceros. Additionally, burning after deforestation accounts for significant greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this, it has recently been deemed a potential saviour as a renewable resource for use as a biofuel.
See the Rainforest Action Network’s ‘ What’s your connection to rainforest destruction?‘ info-graphic.
It is not always easy to identify products with palm oil, as Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allow it to be labelled simply as ‘vegetable oil’. Generally if the saturated fat content is about 50%, there is a good chance that the vegetable oil will in fact be palm oil.
These excellent reports have recently been issued:
- Net Balance Foundation ” Palm Oil in Australia -Facts, Issues and Challenges”. Commissioned by WWF-Australia and the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) exploring the challenges surrounding palm oil, and to provide a spring board for efforts to increase the supply of sustainable palm oil into the Australian market. (March 2013)
- Choice magazine updated report focusing on the need for ‘Palm oil labelling‘ (May 2013)
- WWF Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2013 report looks at companies’ commitment to, and use of, RSPO certified palm oil.
- Greenpeace report ‘ Certifying Destruction – ‘Why consumer companies need to go beyond the RSPO to stop forest destruction’ ( September 2013)
Things you can do
In the storeAvoid products containing palm oil
- Check the ingredients — see the various names for palm oil here.
- Palm oil may be in a product but labelled simply as ‘vegetable oil’. An indicator however is if the nutritional panel lists saturated fat and it’s higher than 50%, and yet there no animal fat listed as an ingredient, there is likely to be palm kernel oil, palm oil or coconut oil, as a component of ‘vegetable oil’ (most likely to be palm). If the product contains margarine, it is highly likely that the margarine will have been derived from palm oil.
- In cosmetic products, labelling is compulsory, however palm oil is usually labelled as ‘Elaeis guineensis‘.
- For a list of branded products that do not contain palm oil, see the ‘Helping you buy responsibly‘ section on the Borneo Orangutan Survival website.
- See OneGreen Planet Responsible Palm Oil Shopping Guide for company responses to whether their products contain palm oil.
- Check out Auckland Zoo‘s palm oil-free shopping guide and wallet card, Easter goodie guide, and study snack guide.
- Shop for products with no palm oil or palm oil derivatives at palmoilfreeproducts.com.au
- Send a message to manufacturers notifying them of your choices to buy or not to buy their product due to this issue. Use our Shop Ethical! app instore, or see our company profile pages for email addresses.
- The WWF (World Wildlife Fund) Palm Oil Buyers’ Scorecard 2013 report assessed the palm oil buying practices of major companies in Europe, Australia and Japan, looking at these companies’ commitment to, and use of, palm oil certified to the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).
- Victorian Zoo’s Zoopermarket allows you to give feedback to companies for their adoption (or lack of) of certified palm oil.
- See Palm Oil Action’s Palm Oil Shopping Guide for a brand list of companies who are members of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil).
- About the RSPO – from the RSPO website; and wikipedia outlining some significant limitations and criticisms from various NGOs.
…… Boots Group PLC , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Cadbury , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Carrefour , – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Golden North , AUS – “ Palm oil free “
…… Henkel KGaA , DEU – “ Palm oil policy “
…… L’Oreal SA , FRA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Marks & Spencer PLC , – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Nestle SA , CHE – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Premier Foods plc , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Seventh Generation, Inc. , USA – “ Sustainable Palm Oil “
…… Tesco PLC , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… The Body Shop International plc , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Unilever , GBR/NLD – “ Palm oil policy “
– PRAISE (LESSER)
…… Arla Foods amba , DNK – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Associated British Foods PLC , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Barilla Group , ITA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Chocoladefabriken Lindt & SprÃ¼ngli AG , CHE – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Goodman Fielder , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Groupe Danone , FRA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Woolworths , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
– MINOR PRAISE (not used in rating calculations)
…… Burger King Corporation , USA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… General Mills, Inc. , USA – “ Palm oil supply chain “
…… Hasbro Inc. , USA – “ Cancelled contract with APP “
…… Kraft Foods Inc , USA – “ Cancelled Sinar Mas contracts “
…… LEGO Holding A/S , DNK – “ Cancelled contract with APP “
…… Mattel Inc. , USA – “ Cancelled contract with APP “
…… Nestle SA , CHE – “ Cancelled Sinar Mas contracts “
…… Peerless Foods , AUS – “ Palm oil claims “
…… Unilever , GBR/NLD – “ Palm Oil breakthrough “
…… ALDI International , DEU – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Archer Daniels Midland Company , USA – “ Palm oil supply chain “
…… Bunge , BMU – “ Palm oil supply chain “
…… Cargill Inc , USA – “ Palm oil supply chain “
…… Groupe Lactalis , FRA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Peerless Foods , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Shiseido Company , JPN – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Snack Foods , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
– CRITICISM (LESSER)
…… Campbell Soup Company , USA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… L’Occitane International SA , LUX – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Shiseido Company , JPN – “ Palm oil policy “
…… YUM! Brands, Inc. , USA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Arnott’s Biscuits , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Coles Supermarkets Australia , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Ferrero SpA , ITA – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Kao Brands Australia , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Leda Nutrition , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Metcash , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… ML International , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Natures Organics , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Nestle SA , CHE – “ Greenpeace targets Nestle in palm oil campaign “
…… Pental Products , AUS – “ Palm oil policy “
…… Reckitt Benckiser PLC , GBR – “ Palm oil policy “
- Sign on-line petitions and join existing campaigns on this issues at our Take Action page.
- Use emails from our company profile pages to a message to manufacturers and brand-owners about this issue.
- Write letters and order ‘protest postcards’ from palmoilaction.org.au
- Volunteer at the Palm Oil Action Group
- The Australian Orangutan Project
- Zoo’s Victoria’s “Don’t Palm Us Off” campaign
The Dove Onslaught(er) video by Greenpeace, a remix of the Dove Onslaught video, targeted Unilever as the biggest single buyer of palm oil in the world. This campaign in 2008 saw Unilever agree to an “immediate moratorium on deforestation for palm oil plantations”.