Will Boycotting Palm Oil Really Change Anything?

Will Boycotting Palm Oil Really Change Anything?

Palm oil has been used in the production of soap for a very long time. It creates a soap that's great for cleansing and moisturizing skin, is long-lasting, and it produces a nice fluffy lather. Despite it being great for making soap, the use of palm oil is a hotly debated topic.

Why's that exactly? Well, there's widespread concern about how the palm oil industry operates. There are grave concerns about the welfare and rights of indigenous people and the destruction of the environment and wildlife in areas where palm oil plantations operate.

At Les Creme, we take this issue very seriously, which is why we use coconut wax, coconut milk, and other coconut derivatives in all of our products and sustainable palm oil. Sustainable practices and protecting the environment are two critical areas that we focus on with everything we do as a company.

We have looked into how the palm oil industry operates, and our findings are nothing short of disturbing. We'd like to share our results with you and discuss how the palm oil industry negatively impacts the planet.

What's Behind the Increased Demand for Palm Oil?

Palm oil has been used for various applications over the years, from food products to the production of energy. In recent years the demand for palm oil has increased substantially, especially in the food industry. If you look at the figures, the consumption of palm oil has increased by over 400% since 1990!

Take a look at the ingredients list on any packaged food item at the grocery store. No doubt, you'll find palm oil listed there, and if it isn't, you'll probably see the words "vegetable oil." Vegetable oil is simply another name that manufacturers give to palm oil to hide the fact that the product contains palm oil. The most widely-used oil in foodstuffs today is palm oil.

We're all well aware of the dangers trans fats pose to our health, which is why there has been a massive shift away from them over the last decade or two. Palm oil has become a healthier replacement for trans fats, mainly because it is one of just a few oils that remains naturally solid at room temperature.

The U.S. has banned new foods from containing trans fats, although it's still possible to find them in older products that haven't yet changed their recipes. The World Health Organization (WHO) is aiming to eradicate trans fats from all foods worldwide, effectively banning them from the year 2023. These bans have most certainly increased the demand for palm oil, and over the coming years will continue to do so. As the demand outpaces supply, we've seen the price of palm oil rise by over 40 percent!

To compound the situation, the demand for palm oil in Europe is up massively due to the pressure European countries are under to use more sustainable sources of energy (biofuels). This increase in demand means new palm oil plantations are needed. The development of these plantations results in deforestation, which has been shown to significantly affect the environment and cause damage to the earth's climate. The stupid thing is that this damage far outweighs the benefits provided by using biofuels, making the whole thing completely pointless.

The Controversy Surrounding Palm Oil

There's a lot of debate when it comes to palm oil. It's not surprising, as large swathes of rainforest must be cleared to make way for new palm groves.

The world's largest rainforests are located in South America (the Amazon River Basin), West Africa (the Congo River Basin), and throughout a lot of Southeast Asia. Some of the smaller rainforests are dotted around the Indian Ocean and other surrounding islands.

Deforestation endangers the welfare and survival of indigenous people in the region. It also has a significant impact on natural wildlife, biodiversity, endangered animals, and habitats. The overall outcome of deforestation is fewer trees and green spaces, and these things are crucial for the removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Climate change has been accelerated by clearing forests to make way for palm oil production. Methods of clearing forests often include burning away trees and undergrowth, which results in a lot of smoke being kicked up into the atmosphere. Of course, this smoke is a greenhouse gas, which further adds to the negative impact on the environment and the planet.

On top of this, the indigenous people no longer reside on the land, and their livelihoods are ruined. This pushes them to work in large palm oil plantations, where they face harsh treatment. This harsh treatment includes unsafe working conditions, violations of their human rights, and inadequate pay for their hard work.




The Impact of the Palm Oil Industry in Developing Countries

Before we grab our pitchforks, we must consider the fact that the palm oil industry plays a massive role in developing nations and their economies. Palm oil also has an enormous impact on the local people, and it supports some of the world's most impoverished communities. As well as that, the palm fruit is used by these people as a source of nutrition.

It's all too easy for people in the developed world to forget about this side of the industry. We must accept that people in these developing countries are simply trying to survive and grow. The industry provides jobs and revenue that is desperately needed for them to live, so it's no surprise that their main priority is not to protect the rainforests.

Should We Boycott Palm Oil Altogether?

Trying to find a solution to the issues surrounding the production of palm oil is certainly no easy feat. One approach that has come up time and time again has been to simply boycott palm oil altogether.

On the face of it, it sounds like it makes sense. After all, if we all boycott palm oil, new plantations wouldn't be needed, which means no more destruction of the rainforests. While it sounds pretty straightforward, it just isn't quite that simple.

Completely boycotting palm oil would severely impact people in developing countries where they rely on the palm oil industry for jobs. While it may seem like big corporations control the entire industry, around 30 to 40 percent of palm oil is actually produced by small farmers. The negative impact of a boycott wouldn't be felt by big corporations, but rather by small family farmers and communities that are already struggling to survive.

The production of palm oil is a very lucrative business. Per hectare, palm oil provides the highest yield, as it produces up to 10 times more oil per acre than any other oil-producing crop! If you think about that for a moment, palm oil is more environmentally friendly than the other crops, as it requires 10 times less space to produce the same volume of oil. If we all boycott palm oil, another crop will just take its place, and there will be even larger consequences to contend with. The overall impact on the environment will be much more significant as a result. Boycotting palm oil won't force big companies out of business, and the demand will not simply vanish overnight.

Palm oil itself is not inherently bad. It allows the native people to earn a living using a smaller amount of land than is required with other crops. The biggest issue with palms is how and where they're grown, not the trees themselves.

The correct solution to this problem requires companies to produce palm oil in a sustainable way, which will have no negative impact on rainforests or the environment. A straight up boycott isn't the answer; it will only weaken farmers who are already trying to farm sustainably. The demand for sustainable palm oil must be higher so that producers start to take notice and begin producing certified sustainable palm oil using good farming practices.

What Should Be Done About the Situation?

Better growing practices can more than double the production of palm oil while simultaneously protecting the important rainforests and their inhabitants.

There are several projects aimed at helping small farmers and developing countries identify areas that are suitable for palm oil production. These areas were originally intended for use with other crops; however, as palm oil yields a lot more oil and requires a lot less land, the areas are better suited for growing palms.

Additionally, there are already vast swathes of land that have been previously cleared by loggers, which are now abandoned. This land could be put to use for new plantations. The other benefit is that no new areas of land would need to be cleared, as the existing empty land would be used.

We must all strongly encourage the sustainable production of palm oil. If we demand it, farmers will grow it. We've already seen the power consumers hold, with large companies such as Starbucks, Hershey's, Nestle, and Unilever committing to sourcing only sustainably produced palm oil. There's certainly a lot more work to do, but this is an excellent first step.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

In 2004 the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was founded. The main objective of the RSPO is to promote the sustainable production of palm oil by creating a number of global standards for farmers to stick to.

To be considered sustainable, plantations must adhere to a strict set of standards. These standards include respecting the rights of not only plantation workers, but also ingenious people and their communities, as well as protecting rainforests and the wider environment. The use of organic fertilizers and other organic farming techniques is also highly encouraged.

RSPO is far from perfect; some environmental groups have deemed their standards to be inadequate, and some loopholes exist that allow for the deforestation of peatlands. Also, while a company can become a member of RSPO, it doesn't necessarily mean that they use certified sustainable palm oil. Some companies do this to dupe consumers into thinking they're green and care about the environment when, in reality, they do not. While RSPO is a good idea in principle, and there's certainly progress being made, there is much more to be done to make the entire palm oil industry truly sustainable.

In 2013 another group was set up by several international non-government organizations in collaboration with producers of palm oil. This group is called the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG). The group now consists of various individuals and organizations, all sharing the same interest in protecting the environment and wildlife from destruction.

POIG encourages the initiatives put forward by RSPO; however, the former believes that their certification system is a lot more rigorous. Their standards are firmly based on the principle of 'zero deforestation.'

Supporting sustainable palm oil production is not the final solution to solving every problem, but it is a good place to start. It'll help stop rainforests from being needlessly destroyed to make way for plantations, which will better protect the wildlife and the environment. Poor communities in developing nations will still also be able to earn an income to survive.

Other Industries That Destroy the Rainforest

For some reason, the world has focused on palm oil when talking about deforestation and the negative impact it has on the environment. However, many other commodities are also responsible for deforestation, including coffee, rice, sugar, soy, and corn, among many others.

Forests all around the globe are being destroyed to make way for plantations so that palm oil, coffee, rubber, rice, tea, and soy can be grown.

In fact, some environmentalists consider the soybean industry to be more destructive to the environment than any other agricultural industry on earth today! Unlike with palm oil, the production of soybeans requires vast amounts of land. The World Wildlife Fund estimates that around 4 million hectares of land are cleared for soybean farming each year, with over 2.6 million hectares in Brazil alone.

In Columbia, sugar cane is one of the major crops behind deforestation. It has been estimated that over 20 million hectares of land will be used for growing just soybeans and sugar cane alone over the next 40 years.

In other countries, there are other crops responsible for deforestation; for example, in Madagascar, rice fields and coffee plantations are the number one factor behind deforestation.

The demand for all of these crops will not die off any time soon; in fact, the demand will more than likely increase as the global population gets larger, older, and wealthier.

Consumers must be the ones who spark change by demanding that all crops be grown sustainably. Organizations and producers must understand that this is something that consumers are demanding. The sustainable growth of all crops is vital in ensuring that the environment is adequately protected.

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