Labels can be confusing to read and make sense of, but if there's one ingredient you should watch for, it's palm oil (or palm kernel oil) and its byproducts. These can be found in both commercially manufactured and handmade products and while, on the surface it may seem innocuous since it’s a natural ingredient, it’s important to understand how it is harvested.
Palm oil comes from the fruit of oil palm trees grown mainly in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions. It is edible so can be found in products from many industries: food, cosmetics, hygiene and even biofuel. You would probably be surprised to know that palm oil and its byproducts can be found under any of these names: Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol.
As far as oils go, it’s cost effective with a long shelf life, so naturally a very common ingredient. When it comes to soap, palm oil adds bubbles and lather which are positive attributes that add to the overall product experience at a relatively low cost. But the real cost of palm oil is to the environment.
PALM OIL CONSUMPTION DRIVES CLIMATE CHANGE
Due to the insatiable demand for palm oil from multiple industries, rain forests are being cut down in order to make room for oil palm plantations: between 1990-2015, 24million hectares of rainforest were destroyed in Indonesia for this purpose. This is devastating to local ecosystems, the natural habitat of endangered animals and the planet as a whole.
Tropical rainforests are the Earth’s lungs, purifying the air from greenhouse gases that drive climate change, and providing us with clean air. The ‘slash and burn’ method of clearing rainforest for oil palm plantations also releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, so the negative impacts of deforestation are even further amplified.
Rainforests are the natural habitat of animals such as tigers, elephants and orangutans who spend nearly their entire lives on treetops. Deforestation is leaving these animals with no home and bringing them to extinction. There are currently 193 critically endangered species threatened by palm oil production.
IS THERE SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL?
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), an entity created by the palm oil industry in 2004, is meant to govern the sustainable production of palm oil, but has been largely ineffective in enforcing any regulation. So currently, there is no way to guarantee that the palm oil you are purchasing, or is present in a product, is truly sustainable.
For this reason, and until such time that true ‘sustainable palm oil’ is easily available, you will not find it in any of BAR OF HOPE’s products.
BAR OF HOPE