Big companies named in palm oil warning

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Palm oil, Carbon dioxide, Greenpeace

Procter & Gamble and Unilever are among the personal care
companies implicated in the environmental time
bomb planted by the farming of the natural
ingredient palm oil, according to a new report.

Palm oil is used in a wide range of personal care products including soaps, shampoos and deodorants as well as foods and bio-fuels. It has become an increasingly popular personal care ingredient, present in 497 products launched in 2007 compared to 246 last year, according to market research firm Mintel. To satisfy the growing demand for palm oil, corporations in Indonesia are burning forests and draining peat lands to create oil plantations, said Greenpeace. In the 'Cooking the Climate' report the peat lands of Indonesia are described as one of the most important stores of carbon in the world. The draining of these peat lands to grow palm oil is destroying these stores releasing high levels of carbon dioxide and therefore contributing to climate change. Greenpeace said the destruction of the peat lands results in the release every year of 1.8bn tonnes of greenhouse gases, which represents four percent of total annual global emissions. The campaigning organization accused large food and cosmetics companies of willingly buying palm oil from suppliers who are actively engaged in deforestation and the destruction of the peat lands. A 'climate bomb' awaits if the farming of palm oil continues in the current vein with precious peat land carbon stores being destroyed, warned Greenpeace. The latest report adds to mounting controversy over the use of palm oil with reports of deforestation and shrinking habitats for animals such as the orangutan multiplying in recent years. In order to tackle the problems surrounding the farming of the ingredient, stakeholders formed the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), which meets at the end of the month to unveil a certification system. Greenpeace cast doubt over its promise of reducing the environmental impact of palm oil production and bringing sustainable oil onto the market, saying that the members of the Unilever-led group are dependent on irresponsible suppliers. However, the Body Shop, one of the round table's 250-odd members, announced in July that it has entered into a partnership with Columbian palm oil supplier Daboon, which sources oil only from organic, sustainable cooperatives. It plans to use sustainable palm oil in all of the 14.5m bars of soap it produces each year. The L'Oreal-owned company claimed it was the first retail company in the cosmetics industry to use sustainable oil. "Our ambition is for the majority of the world's palm oil production to be sustainable within the next two to three years but this will not be achieved by The Body Shop in isolation - our decision must inspire other businesses to join us and tackle the problem head on,"​ said CEO Peter Saunders. Another industry pioneer is leading naturals firm Weleda, which converted to sustainable palm oil two years ago.

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