Our cosmetics, detergents, biofuels and snacks are all filled with a bloodstained oil. The Palm Oil Industry has caused inumerous travesties including: near eradication of orangutans and countless other species; toxic air-quality from flash burns of precious rainforest; displacement of thousands of local villages from stolen and destroyed homes; and poorly compensated labor from smallhold farmers and their children. With more than 50% of all products containing trace amounts of Palm Oil, all the major food and cosmetic corporations are perpetuating these sins against the environment and human rights. There is no such thing as Sustainable nor Ethical Palm Oil!
Brief Overview of Palm Oil:
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil extracted from the fruit of the palm species Elaeis guineensis. Originating in Africa, the palm seeds were first introduced to Southeast Asia in 1848. The Oil Palm industry pioneered during the 1910s in Sumatra and Malaya. Between 1910 and 1925, the plantations of Sumatra expanded from 6000 hectares to 32,000 hectares encroaching deeply into the dense tropical rainforest . Today, GreenPalm reports 84% of the palm oil on the world market is grown in Indonesia and Malaysia alone. Due to rising demand, the production of Palm Oil has destroyed more than 90% of the Orangutans environment in only the last 20 years. At the current consumption rate the United Nations estimate that 75% of the original forests in Southeast Asia will be lost by 2030. While the exact contribution of palm oil emissions is debated, the footprint reported ranges between 12-18% of the global carbon levels [EPA,Union of Concern Scientists,Forest Conversion].
For a more in depth review read my previous post: The Devastation that is the Palm Oil Industry.
Human Right Violation in our Food and Cosmetics:
Not only is palm oil consumption destroying the most biodiverse ecosystem on land, it violates principal human rights. Wilmar, GreenPalm, and other Pro-Oil-Palm organizations like to boost the benefits that the industry has played in addressing unemployment in Malaysia and Indonesia. Yet, the Malaysian Palm Industry only employs 2% of the total population . Now consider, the smoke and ash from flash burns expose 100% of Southeast Asia to hazardous air conditions. In 2015, more than eight countries in SouthEast Asia reported air-quality levels as hazardous.
While these same organizations claim the industry is healthy for the local people, they fail to mention the thousands of people misplaced by land thieving and deportation from their homes. One man Pak Arjai legally acquired 4 hectares of land in 2001, but his lands we later robbed and his home destroyed:
The Roundtable Fraud:
In 2011 an investigation was initiated by Amnesty International. As an organization Amnesty International investigates and exposes human rights violations. In November, all the findings were reported in “The great palm oil scandal: Labour Abuses Behind Big Brand Names.” The investigation reported the following:
“*Women forced to work long hours under the threat of having their pay cut, paid below minimum wage – earning as little as US$2.50 a day in extreme cases – and kept in insecure employment without pensions or health insurance,
*Children as young as eight doing hazardous, hard physical work, sometimes dropping out of school to help their parents on the plantation,
*Workers suffering severe injuries from paraquat, an acutely toxic chemical still used in the plantations despite being banned in the EU and by Wilmar itself,
*Workers being made to work outdoors without adequate safety equipment despite the risks of respiratory damage from hazardous levels of pollution caused by forest fires during August to October 2015″
Despite unfair pay, unsafe working conditions, forced labor, and stolen lands, three out of five of the plantations Amensty international interviewed were certified under the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
To summarize, the nine big brand names (AFAMSA, ADM, Colgate-Palmolive, Elevance, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever) all use and distribute oil produced by Wilmar. Therefore, we should assume every product containing palm oil perpetuates vilolence and destruction of the environment.
What you can do:
Sign Organization Petitions supporting Policy Change:
A simple and fast way to support change is to sign the petitions of groups advocating for change and confronting policy. Rain Forest Rescue has multiple petitions addressing palm oil and other deforestation issues.
Boycott Unilever Products ( and other Unethical Corporate Giants like Nestlé, Colgate, Kellogs, Kraft Hienz, Procter and Gamble):
Soap/Deodorant/Cosmetic/Detergent: Clearly Unilever has something to hide.
Food/Beverages: The irony of Unilever is endless. Despite hosting thousands of the most processed foods, Unilever’s site states: “We use our brands as a force for good to encourage people to make healthy choices and adopt healthy lifestyles”…
…So use the good force of Unilever to adopt healthier choices and don’t buy their products. Avoid processed foods, one of the largest culprits in palm oil consumption:
The HeartBrand: This part is going to hurt. Many people can relate to the sloppy relationship we sometimes share with a pint of icecream. Sometimes Icecream gives us something a person simply can’t, but the ice cream you are likely eating is a product of Unilever. Unilever is the “Largest Icecream Manufacturer” in the world. Forbes reported that Unilever owns “eight of the 15 top-selling ice cream brands in the world.” This list includes: Magnum, Cornettos, Ben & Jerry’s, Breyers, Pingüino, and so many more.
Good News! Homemade Icecream is so much better: better for you, better for the environment, and IT TASTES SOO MUCH BETTER! Here is a recipe for some delicious vegan popsicles!
Support Brands removing Palm Oil:
While few and far between their are brands without the use of Palm Oil.
- Buy 100% Nut butter spreads, oils don’t belong in peanut butter anyway!
- Check out this list. Based in Australia the following page was created by the Humane Society International. The page includes various product free of palm oil to inform responsible shopping. The table includes various websites for cosmetics, soap and even toothpaste!!
- Check out this post on TreeHugger for 25 sneaky palm oil names listed on product ingredient lists.
- Eat these biscuits! Do you Live in the UK?! Support Island Bakery: no GMOs, no preservatives, no artificial colours or flavours, no palm oil! Kudos to Island Bakery!!
- Try an APP. While I have not used one, there are apps designed to scan for Palm Oil, if you use one I would love to hear if you had any success!
Take the Challenge!
Are you ready to go deforestation free? Say No to Palm Oil was an organization started by Thomas King in 2010 when he was only 13yo! The movement is operated by Thomas and his director of research Molly Oray. Read their bio it is incredibly inspiring and see their website for the details on the 28 day Palm Oil Challenge. I plan to take the challenge and will periodically update on my action to cut Palm Oil out of my life.
Write a letter to the Corporations you buy from:
I am in the process of writing letters to send to various brands. I am focusing my energy on brands, like TomsofMaine, that boast organic, sustainable and cruelty free. These brands are the most likely to respond and the most likely to take action. When my letters are complete I will post them here, so look out for them.
Before I sign off:
We can fight the Palm Oil Industry. It is not easy, but it is possible and absolutely necessary. Thank you for taking concern with the Palm Oil Scandal. There was a time not that long ago most products did not contain palm oil. Take action to remove Palm Oil from your life, and stand up against the corporate monsters. Tell Wilmar, Unilever, Nestle, and all pro-palm oil organizations “we don’t need margarine that melts at the right temperature at the cost of our precious rainforest!”
Reach out to me, I would love to hear about the measures your taking to address palm oil. Also, if you have time and interest see the Amnesty International site:
Amnesty International is a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.
As always, have a beautiful day because you are lovely!