Palm oil is in more than 50% of South African consumer products from baked goods, breakfast cereals, sweets and chocolate, to margarine, cooking oil, ice cream and a wide range of cosmetic products. It is also being used for bio-diesel and is now the world’s most used vegetable oil with rapidly expanding plantations. Asking consumers to avoid this cruel oil appears to be a big ask!
If it is so pervasive, can you and I make a difference? YES we can! We can choose to avoid products that contain palm oil, as far as possible. As Earth Keepers,
we should avoid buying products which harm people and the environment. Now it has come to our attention that palm oil is one of these problem products. To copy Anne Frank’s quote on the South African Palm Oil Awareness Face book “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
Why are we at Earth Keepers calling palm oil, a cruel oil? In short, an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production. These rain forests were home to some of the world’s richest biodiversity and now some of the most endangered animals including the orang-utan. Indigenous forest peoples who lived reasonably independently by harvesting products from the forests are being displaced and reduced to surviving as impoverished plantation workers. Fires set to clearing forests for palm oil plantations cause huge CO² emissions which have a global environmental impact. That’s why we call palm oil, a cruel oil.
There is a small silver lining for ethical palm oil. A multi-stakeholder NGO called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is endorsing RSPO palm oil. They have a lot of work to do to ensure that the plantations they endorse are in fact ethical, but it is a start. By avoiding palm oil products consumers can help in two positive ways. Reduced demand can slow the expansion of new palm oil plantations. By asking the big brands if they have a RSPO endorsement on their products, consumers show awareness and actively encourage the use of sustainable palm oil content.
The One Web of Life team at SAFCEI has put together a comprehensive fact sheet on palm oil including what each of us can do. Click link to read Palm Oil Fact sheet . OWL has also produced a template letter for you to send to manufacturers and to retailers to let them know that you know about cruel palm oil and you want them to find an alternative at least until RSPO palm oil is available. Click link for the manufacturers template letter and here for the retailers template letter. Please send the links to your friends.
Add your voice to https://www.facebook.com/SouthAfricanPalmOilAwareness
For a WWF Video on Palm oil click here: http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/footprint/agriculture/palm_oil/
Finally, active Earth Keeping is also about acknowledging companies that do the right thing. Let’s help grow ethical consumption. We know that Black Cat, for example, does not use palm oil. Black Cat and other brands need to know that we have noticed and appreciate them. Send them your One Web of Life thank-you to encourage them.
Kim Kruyshaar for SAFCEI March 2015