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Palm oil is the number one culprit of many environmental atrocities. Used in a wide range of consumer products from snacks to laundry detergent and makeup, palm oil is the most popular vegetable oil on the planet. Because the demand for palm oil is so high, tropical palm plantations are swallowing up the habitats of endangered species and causing mass deforestation.
The palm plant grows best in tropical, rainforest climates. Incidentally, these climate zones are home to the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Palm oil production is one of the leading causes of deforestation, making the practice one of the largest drivers of human-induced climate change. Expansion of palm plantations directly threatens the survival of endangered species, like orangutans, who are native to rainforest habitats. Industrial palm development has also been linked to human rights violations, including child labor and human trafficking.
Palm oil is used in about half the packaged goods sold in grocery stores. So while on one hand the ubiquitous use of palm oil is wreaking havoc on the planet, the companies who use palm oil have the power to choose where they purchase from. This presents companies with an incredible opportunity to demand sustainable farming standards and humane conditions on palm plantations where they purchase the product.
Here are 10 companies that have already committed to sourcing palm oil for their products from sustainable sources. Many have promised to make the switch by 2015. At the moment, some of these corporations have made more progress than others toward this goal. At the very least, these companies are taking a step in the right direction to a more sustainable future and hopefully others will follow suit.
In 2011, Hershey Co. agreed to purchase all of its palm oil from 100 percent sustainable, traceable sources by 2015. Since then, the company has made incredible progress and now plans to reach this goal by the end of 2014.
In 2010, Walmart launched a Global Sustainable Agriculture campaign to help small farmers bolster their business. Walmart highlights its goal to change its practices of sourcing beef and palm oil, naming these industries as the most environmentally damaging. By mandating that private Walmart brand products be sourced from sustainable palm plantations, Walmart estimates it will reduce over all greenhouse gas emissions by five million metric tons by 2015.
3. Avon Inc.
The makeup giant, Avon Inc. joined the RSPO as part of the 2011 “Avon Palm Oil Promise” campaign. While Avon Inc. does not consider itself a “significant” user of palm oil, they have committed to using sustainably sourced palm oil to help drive the future of the industry.
4. P&G Chemicals
Proctor & Gamble (P&G) manufactures basically every consumer good you could imagine. Because of this, they have a pretty big stake in the palm oil industry. To ensure the palm oil used in their wide range of products is sustainably sourced, P&G offers “supplier and partner coaching” on the principles and criteria to meet RSPO standards. P&G has also partnered with nonprofit organizations and other stakeholders to hold their practices accountable.
ConAgra is an American packaged food company that produces brands such as Marie Callendars, Orville Redenbacher, and Slim Jim. The company has a bit of a shady track record and has faced criticism for its environmental policies in the past. However, ConAgra believes palm oil is a “healthy” alternative to trans fat and in an effort to make both the planet and their customers a little healthier, they have committed to sourcing 100 percent sustainable palm oil by 2015.
6. Johnson & Johnson
In 2010 and 2011, Johnson & Johnson purchased 100 percent of their palm oil needs from sustainable sources through RSPO’s GreenPalm program. Although Johnson & Johnson is responsible for only 0.2 percent of the world’s palm oil consumption, they have a highly comprehensive plan in place to ensure the palm oil they do use is sustainably sourced.
Heinz started their mission to convert to sustainable palm oil in 2010. The company has since reduced their global demand for palm oil by 25 percent and achieved their goal of sourcing 100 percent sustainable palm oil by 2013.
8. Marks & Spencers
Marks & Spencers (M&S) is the British equivalent to Target. Marks & Spencers manufactures their own product brand that includes food, household goods and beauty products. M&S launched a sustainability program in 2007 and is committed to sourcing all palm oil for their brand from sustainable sources by 2015.
9. Earth Balance
You probably know Earth Balance as the vegan, GMO free margarine company but, in 2009 Earth Balance had vegans and animal lovers up in arms for its use of palm oil. Even though the faux-butter spread was free of animal products, its link to palm oil implicates its Support of animal cruelty. Since then, Earth Balance has verified its commitment to 100 percent sustainable palm oil. The palm oil used in Earth Balance comes from organic farms in Brazil as well as RSPO certified sources in Malaysia. Earth Balance also purchases GreenPalm certificates and actively supports Orangutan Foundation International.
10. Dunkin’ Donuts
In 2013, Dunkin’ Donuts announced it was changing its recipes, using only 100 percent sustainably sourced palm oil to fry their signature donuts. While this might not make doughnuts any better for you, it does set a standard for other fast food companies.
All of these companies made the commitment to switch to sustainably sourced palm oil in response to the concern of their consumers. Even though adopting sustainable practices may seem like the obvious thing for ALL corporations to do, they are historically slow to hop on the wagon. If you want to see a change in the brands you buy, the power is in your palm!
Here are a few things you can do to stop conflict palm oil:
- Join the Rainforest Action Network’s “In Your Palm” campaign.
- Help the WWF implement better management practices for palm oil producers.
- Join organizations that help protect Orangutans affected by palm deforestation.
- Check out this article to learn more about the Palm Oil Industry and share it far and wide.
Image source: Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade / Flickr