13/11/2007 (New Consumer.com)Palm oil is one of the latest environmentally catastrophic ingredients that we’ve been waking up to lately - and quite literally, as from cereals to soaps it’s an often unspecified oil in many products.
Asda is phasing in a ban of unsustainable palm oil and The Body Shop is working with cooperatives in Colombia to implement sustainable production of palm oil.
Lush is the latest company to show commitment to finding an alternative to the destructive ingredient, which is a main ingredient in soap.
Global demand for palm oil is fuelling the clearing of ancient rainforests to make room for new palm oil plantations, so Lush has come up with Greenwash, a soap with a reduced palm oil soap formula.
‘Reduced’ implies there’s more behind the story, and there is. Lush admits the challenge wasn’t an easy one. All soap requires some form of animal or vegetable fat. Lush’s products are all vegetarian so animal fats were out straight away. It then took the best part of this year researching and developing the soap to find a viable alternative. The final formula is a blend of sunflower, rapeseed, and coconut oil.
So while there’s no palm oil in sight - the old problem of out-of-sight palm oil still exists. Lush can’t offer a 100 per cent guarantee because other common soap ingredients (Sodium Stearate and Sodium Laurel Sulfate) often contain palm oil.
Lush is working with suppliers to trace palm oil in any products it may be using and look for ways to remove it. The palm oil trail is not transparent so we welcome Lush’s frankness about what it’s doing and what still needs to be done.
Here’s a brief outline of why moves like this are important, in case you’re not familiar with the problem with palm oil.
Palm oil is found in one out of every ten products in the supermarket.
Ninety percent of the world’s palm oil comes from Indonesia and Malaysia, and the UN estimates that palm oil plantations are ‘now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss’.
If action is not immediately taken, in 15 years time 98 per cent of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone.
The expansion of palm oil plantations is now the number one threat to wild orangutans in Sumatra and Borneo. The Sumatran orangutan, listed as ‘critically endangered’, faces imminent extinction with 1,000 vanishing every year. At current rates, the entire population could become extinct in ten years time.
The oil-palm plantation business is the most conflict-ridden sector in Indonesia, and one of the most polluting. Plantations are often forcibly established on land traditionally owned by indigenous peoples, and plantation development has repeatedly been associated with violent conflict.
Estimates say Indonesia’s peat-land fires, which are set to clear land for new plantations, generate 1,400 million tones of carbon dioxide every year, contributing to its position as the world’s third-largest producer of CO2.