It seems the Iceland Christmas advert, banned or not banned, has gotten everyone’s ears open to the issues surrounding palm oil. Seriously Iceland, I already loved you for your frozen Greggs pasties (once a northern lass, always a northern lass – also, currently craving one out here in Thailand!!!), but bravo for bringing this issue to the masses and for pledging to ban palm oil in own brand products from 2020.
If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock, here’s the much discussed advert. Get it watched.
What’s the problem?
Palm oil is found in 50% of supermarket products, from food to cleaners to cosmetics. It is a type of vegetable oil derived from palm oil fruit. It’s widely used mainly because it is cheap which is due to its high yield and because the environmental and social costs go unaccounted for.
It’s mass production in Indonesia destroys rainforests and biodiversity. The most horrifying and the subject of the Iceland advert is the plight of the orangutans caused by palm oil production. 80% of their habitat has been destroyed in the last 20 years and they now face extinction. If like me you are a fan of the channel 4 programme Orangutan Jungle School you’ll understand just how heart breaking it is to see these amazing creature lose their homes.
Alongside this, many Indonesians are now without villages, they face flooding due to deforestation and their water ways are polluted with the chemicals used to farm palm oil. The devastation caused by this product is massive.
What can we do?
As consumers we need to use our buying power to drive change in the palm oil industry.
- Check your labels. Most of us check labels these days to see how many calories or salt a product has, so why not add in a check for palm oil? In the UK companies are legally required to state on labels whether the product contains palm oil, however the way this is written can be confusing, a lot of the time it doesn’t simply state ‘palm oil’. Instead the palm oil derivative is often written… of which I’m afraid to say there are 500 of! But if you look out for the following four words you will be able to spot over half of the fatty acid compounds that are often made from palm oil. PALM, STEAR, LAUR, GLYC.
- If the product has palm oil ask yourself; Do I really need it? Can I make it myself? Can I find an alternative that is palm oil free? The internet is a wonderful thing (sometimes), just type in Ecosia (a cool search engine that plants trees) ‘palm oil free make up’ or ‘how to make biscuits’ or ‘palm oil free crisps’.
- If you have to buy it, make sure it’s responsibly sourced. Some companies have now started to ‘responsibly’ grow palm oil. Only palm oil that meets the highest ethical standards gets to wear the label ‘responsibly sourced’. The roundtable on palm oil only gives out this label to a source if it protects the environment and wildlife, safeguards social interests, communities and workers, supports poverty reduction, supports affordable food prices and fulfils increasing global food demand.
I’ll be heading to Indonesia later this year and as much as I can’t wait to see the country, I know it’s going to be hard to witness the devastation palm oil production has caused there.
Who cares if the Iceland advert has been banned? Personally I think it’s a good thing as it’s gotten it more publicity. Most people go make a brew when the adverts come on anyways. The main thing is that people now start acting on this awareness and start to do something positive with their purses. Hopefully this post will help you get started.