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4 things to know about palm oil

1. what is palm oil?

Palm oil is the world's most produced, consumed and traded vegetable oil. It comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. Oil palm trees are native to Africa but now, Indonesia and Malaysia make up over 85% of global supply.

2. what products is it in?

Palm oil is in nearly everything – it’s in close to 50% of the packaged products we find in supermarkets, everything from pizza, doughnuts and chocolate, to deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick. Many brands use palm oil to stabilise for spreadable peanut butter without the oil separation. It’s also used in animal feed and as a biofuel in many parts of the world (not in the UK though!). 

3. what is the problem with palm oil?

The problem isn’t palm, but how it’s grown and managed. Palm oil grows best in low lying, wet tropical areas – exactly where rainforests grow naturally.

Clearing for palm oil plantations has come at a huge environmental cost: palm plantations have replaced huge areas of the oldest tropical rainforest on the planet, destroying the natural habitats of animals like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and Asian elephant.

This forest loss coupled with conversion of carbon rich peat soils are throwing out millions of tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

There also remains some exploitation of workers and child labour. These are serious issues that the palm oil sector needs to step up to address because it doesn’t have to be this way.

4. what solutions are there?

We’re not convinced that palm oil can ever be truly sustainable. For this reason, our products are free from palm oil - always have been, always will be.

Our focus is on encouraging our customers to help reduce demand and slow production — or risk seeing the rainforest disappear before our eyes. Given that rainforests produce about 20% of all the oxygen in the world, and absorb significant amounts of harmful carbon dioxide, it’s vital that they are preserved; protecting them will help to combat climate change and global warming.

We accept that not all palm cultivation is bad, and there are some examples of good growing practices that incorporate palm. Sustainably grown palm oil might be an answer, but demand for it means it’s still problematic. 

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