Why you shouldn't boycott palm oil

Last year, we wrote about the palm oil controversy and the steps that we’ve taken towards using sustainable palm oil by sourcing only from the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) suppliers. There are many articles and groups that encourage folks to boycott palm oil. We don't think that's a good solution to the problem and here's why:

- Palm oil is the most productive vegetable oil crop per hectare. It is so efficient that it produces up to ten times more oil than other leading oilseeds. Therefore, you actually need less land to produce the same amount of yield compared to other oils.

- Alternative oils have their fair share of issues and lead to other environmental sustainability challenges. Take soybean oil, which requires 6x more energy, 7x more nitrogen, and 14x more pesticides per tonne produced than palm oil. (Nitrogen, when it runs off into our water sources, can kill marine life). To meet the World Bank’s projected vegetable oil demand in 2020, palm oil would require only 6.3 million hectares of oil palm plantation whereas soybean oil would require an additional 42 million hectares! That’s about the size of California!

- The palm oil industry alleviates poverty in developing countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Palm oil farming offers a long-term and stable source of income. In Malaysia, the industry provides direct employment for over half a million people and is often credited with being the fastest way of eradicating poverty

- The good news is that there IS a responsible way of growing palm oil. Manufacturers can look to source their palm oil only from farms that commit to growing palm responsibly by being RSPO certified. This certification looks to address:

  1. Biodiversity conservation / Protection of endangered species
  2. Natural resource conservation
  3. Setting aside a portion of land as forest reserve
  4. Providing workers with decent wages and protecting their ability to organize
  5. Following guidelines that determine how, when, and where timber/non-timber forest products are harvested
Since b.a.r.e. soaps uses palm oil, what is it doing to prevent deforestation?

We are now sourcing our palm oil from Rainforest Alliance Certified Palm Oil (a member of RSPO) suppliers. This alliance started in 2008.

To earn the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal, farms are audited annually against the SAN standard for the crop’s production. The standard’s rigorous and detailed environmental, social and economic criteria are designed to prevent deforestation, protect biodiversity and natural resources, deliver financial benefits to farmers, and support the well-being and rights of workers and local communities.

What can you do?

You can educate yourself and others on all aspects of this controversy because the right approach will need to balance farmers’ livelihood with surging palm oil demand and ensure that we preserve as much of our environment as possible. You can also encourage manufacturers to re-examine where they're sourcing their palm and purchase products that commit to using only responsibly sourced palm oil.

Other readers were also interested in...