Boycotting palm oil is not the answer to saving the environment
With Iceland’s recent ad (initially created by Greenpeace) about Rangtan, an orangutan seeking refuge in a little girl’s home, hundreds and thousands of celebrities, influencers and everyday consumers have been eager to make their stand on palm oil. Whether through sharing the video online, signing the petition to lift the ban on the ad, or altogether boycotting the product in question – palm oil – many people been spurred on to action because of the easy-to-understand rhetoric of the video.
However, this simple message simply does not convey the complexity of the issue at hand, and many sustainability experts have gone on to explain why the video is not an accurate reflection of palm oil and what needs to be done. We’ve sifted through these write-ups, and summarised some of the most important questions you need to have answers to:
Why was Iceland’s ad banned from UK television?
Why is the Iceland campaign misleading?
Why isn’t Iceland doing the right thing?
Why is boycotting palm oil not the right thing to do?
The EU Commission’s report states palm oil currently occupies the least land out of all oil crops, and that if we replaced palm oil with soybean oil, we’ll need 200 percent more land.
In fact, as Piers Morgan points out, palm oil makes up 0.4 percent of the world’s total area under agriculture, contributes to less than half of the global deforestation caused by soybean, and one-tenth of that caused by livestock and beef production. With these numbers, wouldn’t a boycott of soybean or beef be more effective at saving the environment?
What should I do other than boycott the product?
- Look for products bearing the RSPO certified label. This means the product gets its palm oil from sustainable and certified growers.
- Support companies with commitments to sustainable palm oil sourcing. The SPOTT assessment and WWF scorecard are a few sites that provide indications on how companies are performing in attaining responsible palm oil.
- If your favourite brand is not supporting certified sustainable palm oil, write to them and ask them to.
The stronger the market is for certified sustainable palm oil, the greater the incentive will be for companies, and smallholders, to attain these standards. Encouraging a boycott on the other hand, would dis-incentivise the uptake of these measures and could potentially erode the work being done to change the way the industry produces.
What is sustainable palm oil?
- Fulfils increasing global food demand
- Supports affordable food prices
- Supports poverty reduction
- Safeguards social interests, communities and workers
- Protects the environment and wildlife
There are other certification schemes that also encourage sustainable production including ISCC, another voluntary scheme used in the bioenergy market, and national mandatory schemes like ISPO in Indonesia and MSPO in Malaysia, developed by governments to set minimum requirements at a national level. RSPO is the most widely known and recognised globally.
What do sustainable certified producers do differently?
Why palm oil is not bad, but important for the future?
Simply put, palm oil is just a plant – it isn’t evil. It’s really the people behind it that make the difference.
Other write-ups you might find insightful: