Is all Palm Oil Unsustainable?

July 18, 2019 4 min read

Is all Palm Oil Unsustainable?

Palm oil has long come under fire as an unsustainable and environmentally damaging ingredient. There is good reason for this belief. Palm oil production is estimated to be the primary cause for 8 percent of the world’s deforestation between 1990 and 2008.

Despite this backlash, palm oil continues to be used heavily in all kinds of everyday products such as peanut butter, bread, soap, chocolate, and skincare products. Unfortunately, the vast majority of palm oil is still sourced in a way which is damaging to the environment.

So, here are the questions: 

1.What makes palm oil so desirable as an ingredient?

2.Is there a way to sustainably and responsibly produce palm oil?

Is all Palm Oil Unsustainable?

The Environmental Problem with Palm Oil Production

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, palm oil is the number one most used vegetable oil on earth. Palm oil is sourced from African Oil Palms which are native to Western Africa. These trees thrive in tropical rainforests, but have also been cultivated in more recent years.

The main problem with palm oil production is not in the extraction or the palm oil itself, it is in the farming tactics used to start or expand palm oil farms. Many businesses practice slash and burn agriculture to make way for African Oil Palm farms. 

Many conscious consumers have since boycotted all palm oil products. The WWF has released a statement claiming that palm oil boycotts are not as effective as choosing sustainable palm oil sources. 

Is all Palm Oil Unsustainable

Additionally, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is working to develop new, better agricultural practices for sustainable, responsible palm oil production.

What Skincare and Beauty Products Use Palm Oil (and why do they use it)?

What skincare and cosmetic products do you own that may contain palm oil? Here are just a few examples you can probably find in your home:

Shampoo:many modern shampoos contain oil(s) to help with hair health. While this is a great method of maintaining natural oil levels in your hair, unassuming customers may be using unsustainably sourced palm oil in their daily cleansing routine.

Soap:speaking of which, palm oil is a primary ingredient in many body and facial soaps. This is due to palm oil’s ability to effectively remove impurities from skin and hair in a natural, non-irritating way.

Lipstick:palm oil holds up under high heat and is remarkably effective at holding dyes. This makes palm oil ideal for lipstick and other similar applications.

Sustainable, Responsibly Sourced Palm Oil

So far we have established four key facts about palm oil:

  1. It is widely used because it is effective in a number of applications.
  2. Most palm oil manufacturing methods are unsustainable and damaging to the environment.
  3. Sustainable palm oil manufacturing according to RSPO guidelines is possible.
  4. The WWF and RSPO believe that responsibly sourced palm oil is more advantageous than palm oil boycotts.

What we have not covered is how exactly responsible palm oil manufacturing is accomplished. Without getting into too great of detail, palm oil producers who are RSPO Certified must prove that their supply chain is sustainable from the plantation, to the mill, collection port, refinery, manufacturer, and to the end consumer. 

Participants must pass the RSPO Principles & Criteria check initially, then open themselves to audits in the future as well. If your product contains RSPO Certified palm oil, you can rest assured that your product is sustainable!

Palm Oil FAQs

Why is Palm Oil so heavily used?

Palm oil production is an extremely lucrative industry. The wide range of applications coupled with the efficiency of the crop to oil production make palm oil a major industry in many areas of the world.

Is Palm Oil always labeled on food and cosmetics?

Sadly, no. In most countries, companies are legally required to clearly print all ingredients on packaging. Unfortunately, consumers who are looking to avoid unsustainably sourced palm oil don’t have it so easy. Palm oil may be labeled as palm oil, vegetable oil, vegetable fat, palm fruit oil, palmate, sodium laureth sulfate, palm stearin, and many others.

Why is sustainable Palm Oil better than a boycott? 

This is not a fact so much as it is choosing what we believe to be the better option. By supporting businesses who are actively trying to protect the environment by providing sustainable options, consumers are telling companies that they care. 

Also, Palm oil is also the highest yielding oil crop in the world. Harvesting oil from other plants would require significantly more deforestation and farmland to yield similar amounts of oil. Palm oil is actually one of the most efficient types of oil to harvest

Remember, palm oil itself is not the problem -- it is the unsavory business practices which have so often surrounded palm oil that we should be fighting!

Is all Palm Oil Unsustainable

The Yellow Bird Uses Only RSPO Sustainable Palm Oil Sources!

At The Yellow Bird, we strive to make environmentally conscious choices. Our artisan soaps and shampoo bars save plastic and all of our products are 100% cruelty free. When it came to including palm oil in our products, we took this decision very seriously. 

The Yellow Bird uses only RSPO Certified organic palm oil in our skin and hair care products. We believe that working with sustainable palm oil organizations allows us to provide high quality products for our customers while protecting the environment we hold so dear.

To learn more, please read about our story or take a fun and easy skincare quiz to find your perfect product!




Nicole P
Nicole P

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