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Let’s Fix the Problems That Plague Palm Oil

With decades of environmental devastation and human rights violations, palm oil has been under the scrutiny of environmentalists, NGOs, and consumers for quite a while. Certifying bodies like the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO), Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO), and more recently the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), have tried to certify the sustainability of palm and palm kernel oils. Unfortunately, lax rules, weak enforcement and domination by commercial interests have served to weaken the effectiveness of these organizations. There are many campaigns advocating for the boycott of palm oil. Some arguments against this idea are negative impacts to the economies of producer countries (namely, Indonesia and [...]

Is the Natural Movement Killing the Rainforest?

I’m sure if you look in your bathroom or shower you will find products that have some sort of natural marketing claim. “Natural” is equated with words like “wholesome”, “safe”, “sustainable”, even “moral” in some consumers’ minds. A product doesn’t even need to contain 100% natural components to benefit from a natural claim. A green label, or the image of a natural substance like honey or coconut on that label is generally enough to drive busy consumers to purchase. The thought is, “if its natural, its good for the planet, and good for me”. Most don’t delve any deeper than that. The product label shown on the left is from [...]

Are Inexpensive Beauty Products Leading to Deforestation?

Unilever committed to using palm oil from certified ‘sustainable’ sources within 2008, and that all the palm oil used by the company in Europe would be certified as ‘fully traceable’ by 2012. In December 2013, Unilever entered into a supply agreement with Wilmar International to guarantee a fully traceable supply chain by the end of 2014. In November 2016, Amnesty International published an article entitled, “Palm Oil: Global brands profiting from child and forced labour, Unilever, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble among nine household names contributing to labour abuse” (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/11/palm-oil-global-brands-profiting-from-child-and-forced-labour/) In July 2017 the Indonesian Ministry of the Environment and Forestry found PT AGL (Gunas Group) clearing peatland despite the December 2016 government regulation [...]

What is Peatland and Why Is It So Important?

Peatland is partially decaying (or carbonized) organic or plant matter that is formed by its decomposition in water. All living things contain carbon and as living things die and decompose, that carbon gets converted to carbon dioxide and goes into the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. The carbon found in material that falls into peatland bogs gets sequestered and avoids release into the earth’s atmosphere. That makes peatland a carbon sink. Peatland is actually the most efficient carbon sink in the world, holding about 50 gigatons (approximately 126 million Boeing 747s) of the world’s carbon (Page et al, 2001). In a world where greenhouse gas reduction is a primary concern, [...]

The Indonesian Palm Plantation Laborer

In Indonesia, 10% of the population works outside the home municipality in different parts of Indonesia (Vartiala, S., et al, 2014). Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil with production reaching 35 million tons per year.   Indonesian law sets the maximum allowable work week hours at 40, and overtime is limited to 14 hours per week. Oil palm harvesters are paid on a “piece rate” rather than hourly rate. If harvesters don’t meet their targets, their base pay is deducted regardless of number of hours worked. Overtime pay and work hour restrictions are not adhered to when workers are paid on a piece rate. The International Labor Organization (of which [...]

Child and Forced Labor

Written by Palm Free Council on March 22, 2018. Posted in Blog, Palm Free. Forced labor, as defined by the International Labor Organization, refers to situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means such as accumulated debt (aka, “debt bondage”), retention of identity papers or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities. Child labor occurs on palm plantations when children are used by parents to assist in meeting aggressive daily quotas. Children of plantation workers will also gravitate to this type of work if they are non-citizens and unable to attend school. Plantation work is dangerous and detrimental to the health and proper development [...]

What’s Wrong with the RSPO?

The environmental atrocities of the palm industry that were witnessed in the 1990s served to give the oil palm industry a pretty bad reputation among environmentalists. These abuses were well known and damaging the reputation of a material that should by all other accounts have a good environmental standing. Palm oil is, after all, the most efficient oil in that we can get more oil from a single palm plant than any other natural oil available. Using biodiesel reduces tailpipe emissions in cars and trucks. The large volumes of palm oil available create stable supply streams and drive down pricing. The Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created in 2002 [...]