Time to Clean Up Our Homes and Cosmetics: GreenPalm Urges Businesses and Consumers to Join the Drive for Sustainable Palm Kernel Oil

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GreenPalm is urgently calling on the household and personal care industry to support the sustainable production of palm kernel oil, a common ingredient in cosmetics and home care products.

Bob Norman, general manager of GreenPalm

It's in your lipstick, your hand cream, your shaving gel and the stuff you use to wash your clothes – and it could be destroying rain forests, removing apes' habitats and driving forest communities from their homes.

GreenPalm is urgently calling on the household and personal care industry to support the sustainable production of palm kernel oil, a common ingredient in cosmetics and home care products.

GreenPalm, a certificate trading programme designed to support and promote production methods approved by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), says the environmental and social problems in major palm production regions such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Colombia demand an immediate and global response.

Bob Norman, general manager of GreenPalm, said: “It’s in your lipstick, your hand cream, your shaving gel and the stuff you use to wash your clothes – and it could be destroying rain forests, removing apes’ habitats and driving forest communities from their homes.”

He added: “Most people now know about the issues linked to palm oil, an ingredient used in many foods, from biscuits and cakes to sauces and ready meals. So far, though, we’ve heard less about the use of palm kernel oil – derived from the centre of the palm fruit – in home care, personal care and cosmetic products.

“Many high-profile manufacturers have made a public promise to start using only certified sustainable palm kernel oil from 2015, but it’s looking increasingly likely that this won’t be possible for many of them. Large volumes of RSPO-certified palm kernel oil are not available, and consistency of supply would present a major headache, especially for those businesses using hundreds of thousands of tonnes of material each year.

“However, a separate issue is the pressing need to change the palm oil industry immediately – the rain forest cannot wait several years for everyone’s CSR plans to be set in motion. Urgent action is needed now, by making sustainable palm kernel production not just commercially viable but also appealing.

“GreenPalm works by paying a premium direct to the producers who are certified by the RSPO as using responsible, ethical and sustainable methods. The end user does not receive segregated sustainable palm oil, but it has directly funded an equivalent amount from an RSPO-certified producer.

“This is about doing the right thing, rather than putting a badge on some packaging and feeling good. When 2015 arrives, where will the segregated supplies come from? There won’t be enough unless palm kernel oil producers are given an incentive and a commercial reason to start producing sustainably now. This way, the industry can change as a whole, whether a producer exports their palm kernel oil to a European corporation with a strong CSR focus, or just sells it locally.”

Palm kernel oil is an ingredient used in about 70% of cosmetics and home and personal care products, from lipstick and body butter to soap and kitchen cleaning fluid. It is the only vegetable fat with a solid consistency at non-tropical room temperature, and has become widely used as a low-cost, versatile and plant-based alternative to animal fats.

However, its popularity has driven a rapidly expanding industry that has been linked with deforestation, high carbon emissions, displacement of local communities and threats to endangered species such as the orang-utan, Sumatran tiger and sunbear.

The RSPO was established as a group of palm producers, growers, refiners and corporate users, to agree a set of principles and criteria, both environmental and humanitarian, that must be met for a producer’s output to be certified sustainable.

GreenPalm is the only certificate-trading programme endorsed by the RSPO. An RSPO-certified producer can earn one GreenPalm certificate for each tonne of palm oil or palm kernel oil produced. The certificates are then offered for sale online – and businesses that make or sell products containing palm oil or palm kernel oil can then bid for and buy them to off-set the palm products they have bought in the normal way.

The price of the certificate goes to the producer, as a premium.

In two years, one million certificates have been traded via the GreenPalm programme, earning over $9m in premiums for producers working within the rules of the RSPO. Support has come from international names including Unilever, Cargill, Carrefour, Marks & Spencer, Cadbury, Danisco, Lidl, Burton’s Foods, Seventh Generation, Findus, New Britain Palm Oil, Asda, Boots, Tesco and Waitrose, among many others. The GreenPalm system also enables small businesses, with less control over and financial power to change international supply chains, to support sustainable palm oil production.

Marks & Spencer famously pledged to off-set its entire use of palm oil with GreenPalm certificates, until a fully segregated and certified supply of sustainable palm oil became available. Unilever is GreenPalm’s biggest buyer, securing certificates for its use in brands created throughout Europe.

Palm kernel expeller (PKE), the meal that remains when oil is extracted from the kernel, is also now covered by GreenPalm certificates. PKE’s high fibre content makes it a valuable protein-based feed for animals, and it is used by some super-dairies to feed cattle. By buying GreenPalm PKE certificates, those businesses can now support sustainable palm production.

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Julie Leydon
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