Why I won’t be boycotting Palm Oil | Opinion Piece

By 14th November 2018March 20th, 2019Blog

Iceland have bolstered their position in the emotionally resonating Christmas adverts this year, by having its “banned” before even hitting TV screens. The ad was originally produced by Greenpeace, a political campaigning organisation.

Under the Communications Act 2003, political advertisements may not be broadcast on TV, and as such the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) didn’t even review the ad for TV.

The advert features a young girl and a baby orangutan telling his story of how his home is being destroyed for the sake of our insatiable demand for palm oil. It is an undeniable fact, that unsustainable agricultural practices are devastating irreplaceable swathes of prime rainforest in Indonesia. But does this mean that we should boycott it?

In this authors opinion, the problem of palm oil is far too complex to simply boycott and hope that someone else comes up with a more sustainable source of oil for food, cosmetics and biofuels. Human population is forecast to continue growing at astounding rates, coupled with longer life expectancies – our global demand will not slow or stop.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned in a report published in June 2018 that, “banning palm oil would most likely increase the production of other oil crops to meet demand for oil, displacing rather than halting the significant global biodiversity losses caused by palm oil.”

“Half of the world’s population uses palm oil in food, and if we ban or boycott it, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place. Palm oil is here to stay, and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that all parties – governments, producers and the supply chain – honour their sustainability commitments.”

In defence of Iceland, they have bought an important, little-known global issue to the forefront with this campaign, however one has to wonder, what good is a petition that offers no solution to the crux of the issue; if not palm oil – what else?

So, please, don’t ask me to sign petitions, especially if they offer no solid solution to the problem.

At this time the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) are working hard to promote the growth and use of sustainable palm oil throughout the entire supply chain.  Of course, for brands like Iceland, it is easier to communicate a just say no – boycott & sign this petition message.

Petitions do give an instant sense of accomplishment, but real change comes from action. In the regions we work in Sumatra, palm oil isn’t the only issue.  There are large concerns with prime forest conversions predominantly led by coffee growers. If you love a Sumatran roast please, please check its provenance – look for Rainforest Alliance logos or wording on the packaging that indicates zero deforestation occurred to deliver the product.  If the packaging does not give the information you are looking for, contact the brand and ask why.

Unless we as consumers continue to demand environmental standards from our suppliers and producers, there is no incentive for them to change the way supply chains are managed.

It is a job to clarify whether products containing palm oil have come from sustainable or non-sustainable sources; however, I consider this my contribution to protecting our planet.

These are the personal views of the author…
Crissie Constantinou