NO Palm Oil

The Apothecary does not use palm oil in any of our products. Here’s why.

Mass cultivation of palm oil is widely known to carry devastating social and environmental impacts: massive deforestation, pollution and destruction of peatland, resulting in catastrophic damage to biodiversity, health and climate stability, and perverse social outcomes including conflict, land grabs, loss of livelihoods, and labour and human rights abuses. Palm oil production continues apace, and the issues surrounding mitigating the devastating impacts are complex and far-reaching.

Some palm oil is certified as sustainable. However, this certification is largely meaningless. Certified concessions have suffered as much and often even more tree loss than non-certified sites. Often, sites are first degraded to the point of no longer holding much value for biodiversity or as carbon sinks, then ongoing clearance is allowed in those sites because they are not high value. The two groups who certify palm oil as sustainable, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), consist largely of industry representatives whose power and economic interests undermine the bodies’ effectiveness as truly unbiased watchdogs over environmental and social concerns. Instead, there is strong evidence that certification is a form of green-washing that falsely allays consumers’ concerns and smooths the way for business to continue as usual.

Although most palm oil now comes from plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia (as well as other south-east Asian countries, Africa and Latin America) the plant originally comes from West Africa, and it is possible that there may still be some small-scale West African sources of palm oil that are truly sustainable. However, without a disinterested, trustworthy and transparent certification process, or a direct relationship with a specific operation which we can confidently verify as being sustainable and ethical, there is simply too much evidence that there is in practice currently no such thing as sustainable palm oil.

We recognise the dangers of replacing one evil with another less obvious one, however. Palm oil is an extremely high yield crop, and replacing it with other lower yielding alternatives such as soy, could lead to even worse environmental outcomes (as more land is needed to produce the same quantity of oil). We also know that, for example, coconut oil production can be beset by many of the same problems as palm, notably when imported from South-East Asia. We therefore choose only organic coconut oil from southern Africa. (You can read more about this here.)

We believe the issues around palm oil illustrate why relying on badges and certifications is not enough. To truly care about environmental and social impacts requires us to constantly question and research, and to be open to change as our knowledge and understanding grows – all part of what it means to MAKE IT BETTER.

Resources on the topics raised in this article: