Why Boycotting Palm Oil Won’t Help Save the Environment

RSPO, along with The Better India, has launched the #KnowYourPalm initiative that encourages businesses, consumers and other stakeholders to make a conscious decision to shift towards products that use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).


This article has been sponsored by RSPO.


In one form or another, most of us have come across the proverbial saying, ‘You are what you eat’, which aims to emphasise the importance of eating healthy. But this saying applies to a much wider scope, whereby consumption of any kind reflects the person you are or want to become.

Be it a choice of cereal or shampoo, all your consumption choices are directly linked to you. And you are linked with the environment around you.

Hence, the world is indeed a delicate web of interlinked consequences that are influenced by our choices. Philosophy aside, the classic example of this phenomenon can be found at your nearest grocery store. Every time you decide to buy a certain brand of toothpaste or a pack of chips, you are making a choice that will have a larger influence. In this specific case, the impact could be on the rainforests of Indonesia or the future of endangered species like Sumatran tiger, Orangutan or Rhinoceros and even human rights violation of plantation workers.

Seems like a stretch? Let us explain why it is not.

A sustainable global solution

Mass consumption products like toothpaste, soap, biscuits, bread, chocolate, etc. have a common primary ingredient called palm oil, which has been historically critiqued for causing deforestation, pollution, human rights violation and endangerment of wildlife species. Yet, it is the most widely used edible oil across the world.

Shedding more light on the actual effects of palm oil cultivation, a report in ‘The Conversation’ explains that while agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, oil palm plantations account for only 8% of it. According to the study, deforestation caused by oil palm accounts for only 2.3 % out of the total 239 million hectares of forests lost between 1990 and 2008. Additionally, no other oil crop manages even a third of the yield per acre as oil palms.

Hence, boycotting it entirely is not a feasible solution. At the end of the day, the oil palm crop is just a plant, growing which ideally should not have such grave consequences. And yet it does, thanks to unsustainable and exploitative production practices of palm oil.

In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was formed in response to the urgent and pressing global call for sustainably produced palm oil. The RSPO unites stakeholders from the seven sectors of the palm oil industry – oil palm producers, palm oil processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and social or developmental NGOs – to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil production.

RSPO’s stringent standards ensure oil palm agriculture coexists harmoniously with the welfare of local communities as well as the environment. Additionally, the advantage of growing sustainable palm oil is that it requires up to 10 times less land than any other vegetable oil crop. With high production efficiency and cost-effectiveness, sustainable palm oil farming is a reliable and sustainable source of income for millions of smallholder farmers.

Being equipped with this information not only empowers you as a consumer but also helps you make the right decisions. For this, RSPO along with The Better India has launched the #KnowYourPalm initiative that encourages businesses, consumers and other stakeholders to make a conscious decision to shift towards products that use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

One of the ways of doing so is by recognising the use of palm oil by checking the product’s ingredients list. Known through various derivatives, palm oil is often referred to as Palm Kernel Olein (PKO) or Palm Kernel Stearin (PKS), PKO (Palm Kernel Oil), Palmate, OPKO (Organic Palm Kernel Oil), Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Palmitate (Vitamin A or Ascorbyl Palmitate) and Sodium Lauryl Sulphates.

Once you find one of these ingredients, the next step is to inquire if the brand uses palm oil that has been produced and sourced sustainably. This includes creating environmentally conscious policies, production strategies and product releases. Some brands have also begun to label their products that contain CSPO and use the RSPO trademark on their products to help consumers identify the use of sustainable palm oil.

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So far more than 5,000 stakeholder organisations including multinational companies from 101 countries are working towards this global solution, and you too can be a part of this. Do your bit and take the pledge to demand RSPO certified sustainable palm oil products and spread the word.

Picture Credits: Jonathan Perugia

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