Orangutans were in the news a bunch last week, mostly one called Rang-tan. The little primate had earned the concern of a wee girl who had learned that his family was in serious trouble because of the palm oil industry.
The little girl and the Rang-tan were part of an animated ad, originally created by Greenpeace and voiced by British actress Emma Thompson, that British grocery chain Iceland Foods was trying to air to bring awareness to the effects of palm oil farming (click to watch ad). The ad was not approved by the agency that gives the green light to ads that air in the UK because it was deemed too political.
While the controversy largely sparked a discussion on political advertising in general, it also brought substantial chatter on the topic of palm oil and the impact it has on the environmental, social, and political health of the countries who farm it.
Palm oil has many names and is present in nearly 50% of the packaged items we buy at our grocery store including cookies, chocolate, pizzas, toothpaste, and shampoos. The oil itself is harvested from either the fruit of the palm tree or the kernel of the fruit. The trees are native to Africa but were introduced to Southeast Asia where 85% of palm oil harvesting now takes place.
The problem, you see, is what happens to the ecosystem when the original forests are cleared and palm trees are planted, resulting in what is known as green deserts. The animals who called those forests home, the already endangered orangutans and pygmy elephants for example, can no longer survive in these green deserts. They are either forced to find new homes, which is increasingly more difficult or they starve to death. Moreover, the deforestation has a devasting effect on the the planet and there are issues such as child labour and worker exploitation too.
The palm oil industry reformed into the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to begin a process towards sustainable practices in palm oil growing. However, some critics suggest this is a front to allow them to continue their practices under the guise of a more responsible approach. Certainly, it is an improvement to have more regulation and standards for sustainability and a step in the right direction but some feel it’s debatable if it is enough.
This is a conversation that is only going to grow and spark more debate as companies like Iceland Foods commit to becoming 100% palm old free. Many companies are following their lead and here at Luisella we are proud to say we are not only among them, we started this way.
Most chocolate spreads contain a considerable amount of palm oil; our is and always has been 100% palm oil free. In fact, we are very proud to be certified Palm Oil Free by the Go Palm Oil Free organisation based in Europe, earning this distinction earlier this year.
It is our promise to our customers, that, like our promise to remain free of major allergens and use only the most wholesome ingredients, we will never use palm oil in any of our products.
Moreover, we are committed to raising awareness of the impact of palm oil farming on the animals, farmers and the environment and working together with our customers to support those who are trying to find solutions to this problem.