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Palm Oil Sustainability Explained in 5 Minutes

Palm Oil Sustainability Explained in 5 Minutes

To fully understand what I’m going to say, first know that you likely consume this oil every day 👇

It’s added into 70% of all personal care items. Like our soaps, laundry detergent, lotions, toothpaste, deodorants, lip balm, makeup etc.

To get this, corporations are clearing one football field worth of rainforest every 6 SECONDS, in some of the last remaining rainforests. Which are the home to 50% of all living species on Earth.

What's worse is that these rainforests are on peatland, and incredibly carbon rich soil. 

In fact, burning peatland releases 100x more greenhouse gasses than conventional forests. 

As of now, corporation's seeking cheap palm oil have destroyed over 80% of habitat. Significantly impacting the life that lives there such as the endangered tigers and orangutan's (our 2nd closest living relative).

And the craziest part is that corporations actually hire locals for "pest" control.

To show their worth, the hunters will often bring back the chopped hands of the primates. That is unless they find a baby, in which they will sell them into an illegal pet trade. 


In terms of the natives, previously self-sufficient communities who were heavily reliant on the forests, are now reduced to laborers on their own land.

They go from being resilient and food-secure, to being completely reliant on incredibly low-paid wage labour.

What about RSPO (sustainable certified palm oil)?

According to One Green Planet, just a mere 35% of palm growers, who claim to be members of the RSPO "are actually certified.”. While the remaining 65% pay to be members "but have taken no action to adhere to those guidelines”

In addition, RSPO still allows farmers to deforest land at their will, but just not in "high conservation value areas," a term that has no legal definition.

RSPO palm oil is also allowed to be mixed with unverified palm oil, known as the mass balance model. It is what it sounds like... RSPO-certified mills are allowed to source uncertified palm oil for their products. 

The problem today is that palm oil is incredibly cheap, so big corporations buy as much as they can. 

The only "pro" for about this palm oil, is that it's an incredibly efficient crop. 

So Can Palm Oil Ever Be Sustainable?

As an environmentalist who runs a home goods store, this question is one I think about a lot more than the average person. 

And for years, I didn't think it could be done. I despised it.

Then I learned about Palm Done Right

Palm Done Right is actually a pretty incredible organization. But at first, I thought they were another company lying out their a**.

Being certified by Palm Done Right means you:

  • Can not have deforested any land for agriculture.
  • Must use only 100% organic farming practices including using natural compost and cover crops.
  • Provide full transparency about your supply chain and be both 3rd party certified AND certified by PDR.
  • Be trained on how to conserve the biodiveristy and animals on their land
  • Pay workers a very fair wage, and even support their healthcare, education, and cultural activities. 

I could go deeper into this, but wanted to keep this blog brief. 

And if you'd like to learn about the sustainability impact of other vegetable oils, read this blog from Zero Acre Farms.

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