Guide: Vegan Products and Palm Oil

As a follow up to our article on the dirty palm oil industry, we aimed to compile a list that combines two important considerations for truly cruelty-free and sustainable food and products: that they are vegan, and that they are palm oil-free. Unfortunately there are few companies switching to non-use of palm oil, so we expanded the list to include companies that source ‘certified sustainable’ palm oil or are aiming to in the future.

However, there is growing uncertainty in the green community about the reliability of ‘green’ palm oil, with many environmental organizations including Greenpeace, dubbing all palm oil sources certified by the RSPO and other organizations as ‘greenwash’. Corporate members of the RSPO have been found to be some of the most active companies involved  in deforestation. Other companies however attest that certification is a small but initial step in a wider movement towards addressing the problem of palm oil- in exactly those terms. After deciphering much of the jargon we were sent after inquiring about corporate palm oil policies, we cataloged their replies and provided easy links for readers to contact companies themselves. Although companies that use certified palm are listed on the second list, it’s probably best to avoid palm oil altogether if possible, until the mainstream alternative becomes a truly green, sustainable and environmentally accountable way of sourcing palm oil.

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Every company we emailed, bar one, replied within 24 hours of me sending the email. These companies want to know what the consumers want. They want to make money from us and if we ask them not to source palm oil at all, they will certainly take that into account.

Vote With Your Wallet.. 5 Star Brands

Brand Name Product Type What They Say

Verdict

Aware Laundry products ‘Launched on World Animal day 2010, Planet Ark’s Palm Oil Free campaign was made possible through the generous support of Aware – the first palm oil-free laundry products available in major supermarkets.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Booja Booja Chocolates ‘We do not use palm oil in our products.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Divine Chocolate Chocolate ‘In the interests of protecting the rainforest, Divine does not use any palm oil in its chocolate, and aims not to use any additional ingredients that contain palm oil. To that end we are working to detect any ingredient that may contain palm oil and are looking for alternatives.  If we ever decide to make an exception to this approach it will be with independently audited traceable and sustainable palm oil, and will make this clear on any packaging.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Dorset Cereals Cereal ‘We have been phasing out the use of Palm Oil at Dorset Cereals and we now DO NOT use Palm Oil in any of our recipes. We have carried out extensive research into this are and have made the decision to remove Palm Pol, of any sort, from our supply chain.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Essential Care Bodycare products ‘We definitely do not and never have used palm oil in any of our products.  If you check the top of the home page on the website – ingredients being a tab – this will give you all the ingredients we currently use.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Funky Chocolat Chocolate ‘Funky Chocolat was created to raise money to help Animals Globally, not only by being POF (palm oil free) Vegan product but by distributing the money made from the sale of them to organisations within Australia and around the world who make the world a better place for ANIMALS.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Honesty Cosmetics Cosmetics, deodorants, soaps, cleaning products ‘Honesty Cosmetics are BUAV approved and registered with the Vegan Society, with a 1976 fixed cut off date (FCOD) and contain no palm oil. Our Faith in Nature products have a 1988 FCOD.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
LaMari Cosmetics, bodycare ‘LaMari is totally palm oil free!’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Little Satsuma Soaps Palm oil free soap. 10p from every soap sold goes to the Orangutan Foundation + 20% discount to everyone who purchases a copy of the Naturewatch Compassionate Shopping Guide! Brilliant. 5 stars!
LUSH Cosmetics, toiletries, soaps, ‘bath bombs’ Palm-oil free. ‘If everyone reduced their use of palm oil by 50% and boycotted any biofuels using it, then it could be a sustainable oil. There’s not enough time to sit and pontificate – the public need to put pressure on manufacturers now… We believe that until global levels of palm use are cut dramatically, there is little hope of a workable sustainable palm oil industry, and the future of the forests, animals and people of Indonesia and Malaysia is bleak.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Mooncup Women’s products ‘The Mooncup is completely animal product free and rest assured that no palm oil is used either.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Natural Spa Supplies Bodycare products ‘Our products are definitely palm oil free. We only have two soaps one is made with 100% British grown hemp oil and the other with olive oil. Both are very sustainable.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Pure Nuff Stuff Soaps, bodycare products ‘We do not use palm oil in any of our products.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Redwood Cheezly Vegan cheese ‘NO palm oil.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
RSPB Soaps, bodycare products, chocolate ‘Palm Oil is not used in any of our products.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Tofurkey Vegan Meats ‘Our products are Palm Oil free. We used to use sustainably produced palm oil in one product (our Tofurky Roast) but that ingredient was eliminated last year, however, unfortunately the product packaging was not appropriately updated. That product does have a two year shelf-life, so you may still see Tofurky Roasts and Tofurky Feasts on the shelves that have palm oil listed in the ingredients until next year. I assure you, though, that the actual product does not contain any. Brilliant. 5 stars!
Vegusto Soy-free vegan cheeses ‘We don’t use palm oil or phosphates. We use coconut oil instead of palm oil.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Woadworks Soaps, bodycare ‘Palm Oil free soaps, salves, skin and bodycare.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!
Yaoh Soaps, bodycare, sunscreen, seed oils organic hemp products ‘We use hemp oil and coconut oil instead.’ Brilliant. 5 stars!

In Need of a Helping Hand.. Nudge Them in the Right Direction

Brand Name Product Type What They Say

Verdict

Against the Grain Cookies ‘We believe that palm oil should be grown in a sustainable way which does not endanger the rainforests and its inhabitants. We only use sustainable produced palm oil in our products. Our suppler is Aarhus United UK who are founder members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil. The RSPO has established ‘Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production’ which include preserving threatened species and high conservation value habitats.‘ Watch out for greenwash. Email your concerns to [email protected]
Biona (Windmill) Wide variety of food products ‘Our Organic Palm oil is sourced from a sustainable project in Columbia certified by Pro Forest.’ Some good progress here, but more can be done. Email Biona your concerns using this form.
Clif Bar & Company Energy bars ‘We use USDA-certified organic palm kernel oil in many of our bars, which ensures a strong ecological approach to palm oil production. All our other palm oil suppliers are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) which promotes sustainable growth and use of sustainable palm oil. But is it strong enough? Watch out for greenwash. Contact Clif Bar via the ‘general question’ link on their website.
Dove’s Farm Biscuits, flour, cereals, pasta ‘Our palm oil comes from sustainable, non GM, organic suppliers in Columbia. It is fully traceable, and being produced in South America is in no way implicated in the destruction of Orangu-tan habitats. Indeed, our producers are dedicated to enhancing their local environment, for example setting aside at least 10% of their land for “wildlife corridors”, which is not only valuable for the natural fauna and flora in its own right, but helps control pests and diseases in the organic palm crop. Email Dove’s Farm your concerns using this form.
Earth Balance Vegan Butter ‘70% of our palm oil comes from responsible sources in peninsular Malaysia (also a non-native orangutan habitat), which are all members of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the leading global organization developing and implementing global standards for sustainable palm oil production. We purchase GreenPalm Certificates, which work a lot like carbon credits.’ And the other 30%? Email Earth Balance your concerns using this form
Green & Black’s Chocolate, chocolate spreads ‘Green & Black’s chocolate does not contain palm oil, although a tiny amount of organic palm oil is included in our chocolate spread and in our butterscotch. Green and Black’s is committed to the ethical and sustainable sourcing of the tiny amounts of organic palm oil we use.’ How tiny is ‘tiny’ in terms of species extinction? Watch out for greenwash. Email Green & Blacks your concerns using this form.
Liz Lovely Chocolate, cookies Liz Lovely buys certified organic, sustainably harvested palm oil exclusively from Spectrum Ingredients whose growers farm land that has historically been used for other crops, rather than deforested land.’ Watch out for greenwash. Email Liz Lovely your concerns using this form.
Nature’s Path Organic cereals, cereal bars, waffles Our supplier guarantees that our palm oil comes from long established organic palm plantations and small scale farms, located in an agricultural area of the Amazon delta near Belem in Brazil – and that these farms are cultivated in a sustainable & organic manner. All of the organic production is done in accordance with Brazilian, USDA/NOP, and European standards and is verified by the Brazilian certifier IBD. Additionally, our product supplier is in the final stages of certification with RSPO Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, is certified as an organic supplier and meets the stringent IBD Certification that has environmental and sustainable requirements.‘ A lot of waffle from these waffle-makers. But what does it mean? Watch out for greenwash. Email your concerns to [email protected]
Tofutti Ice cream ‘Most of our cheese products use palm oil.  The palm oil we use comes only from sustainable sources. It is certified by the USDA.’ Watch out for greenwash. Email your concerns to [email protected]

Pressure Them

These companies are desperately in need of pressure from you, the consumer.

Brand Name Product Type What They Say Verdict
Kellogg’s Cereals ‘We do not currently use RSPO certified palm oil but Kellogg’s as a member of RSPO has committed to develop and implement plans of action to promote sustainable palm oil production, procurement and consumption… Once sourcing sustainable oil is available “at financially and logistically feasible volume, we will move to sustainable palm oil.”’ Oh, but it is. Email your concerns to Kellogg’s using this form.
Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate ‘Following the assessment of the current palm oil usage and its origin, Lindt & Sprungli is in the process of insisting its suppliers only deliver RSPO-certified palm oil from sustainable sources’ Watch out for vague greenwash.. Email your concerns to Lindt & Sprungli using this form (it’s in German, but don’t worry about that).
YUM! Brands Owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut (and KFC, but they get zero points for being majorly non-vegan) The only company that didn’t reply to my email. According to Greenpeace – ‘fast food giant YUM! Brands… is lagging far behind. Greenpeace has repeatedly documented the company buying commodities linked to deforestation, including paper packaging from Asia Pulp & Paper (APP), a leading forest destroyer in Indonesia.  Yet, company executives have refused to take action to protect rainforests…or even acknowledge the problem.’ Terrible! Sign the Greenpeace petition here, and contact YUM! Brands to demand that they cease the destruction of the rainforest immediately, via their website.
Yves’ Veggie Cuisine Alternative meat products ‘Unfortunately we do not have lists of our products that do or do not contain certain ingredients. We list all ingredients so if palm oil is used in any of our products it will be listed as an ingredient. Thank you for your continued support. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM – 5PM Mountain Time.’ So do they use it or not? What’s their policy on palm oil? Email your concerns to Yves’ Veggie Cuisine using this form.

The List Goes On

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This list is not all-inclusive – in fact it’s just a start. According to Greenpeace, Unilever, Cadbury’s, Nestle, Tesco and palm oil traders Cargill and ADM together represent 40% of the global palm oil trade. That’s a lot of rainforest deforestation and habitat destruction in the hands of just a few large companies.

Don’t feel helpless after reading about the horrific impact of the palm oil industry – you can do a lot with just these lists. Email companies to ask that they reduce their consumption of palm oil, or to go palm oil-free altogether. Or you can do more. Consider checking up on the companies that make the products you use, particularly food items as that is where most palm oil ends up. If the company offers you greenwash or is strangely silent on the issue, drop them an email to see what their policies on palm oil are. Remember, when it comes to rainforests and the countless species that inhabit them, and whether or not they survive, you the consumer – hold the power. So use your consumer vote. And good luck!

See a brand/product missing from our list? Let us know in the comments below!

Image Source: VeganBaking.net/Flickr

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