What’s the problem with palm oil?

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palm trees, which are found mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia. The oil is very versatile and is used in many common consumer products, including foods, cosmetics and household products and its use has been increasing steadily. So what is the problem? Well, unfortunately palm oil production causes massive environmental damage as land is cleared to make way for plantations – trees are cut down, soil is degraded and biodiversity is negatively affected. Wildlife habitats are being destroyed and  animal species such as orangutans are suffering. There are impacts on people too as indigenous populations have been displaced and human rights violations are common in the industry.

Consumers can help by being aware of which products contain palm oil from non-sustainable sources- a guide can be downloaded from http://www.rainforestfoundationuk.org/palmoil. Or you can add this app to your phone and scan the bar code to see if a product contains palm oil – POD-Palm Oil Detector. You can write to companies and manufacturers to challenge them on their use of palm oil and support those that do not use it. For more information check out the ‘Say no to Palm oil’ website and subscribe to the Ethical Consumer where you can get up to date information on sustainable products. In summery …

Supermarkets with the best rating for palm oil:

  • Waitrose
  • Co-op
  • M&S
  • Sainsbury’s

The following have received a worst rating: 

  • ASDA, Morrisons, Tesco, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland, Booths, Ocado

    Palm oil plantation used to be rainforest