When entering the world of crafting my own soap and selling soap made by others, the palm oil issue was an important one that demanded careful consideration and detailed research. My initial reaction was to boycott .Palm oil is after all responsible for large scale deforestation and the destruction of the habitats of the orangutan and other endangered species. I couldn't support the production of this oil and would ensure that I sourced and made soaps that were free from it. As I delved deeper, however, it became apparent that this is far from a straightforward issue. It's a complex one, and a blanket boycott of palm oil is not the answer.
The problem is not palm oil itself, it's deforestation. So, why not boycott palm oil? In a nutshell, palm oil is, by some considerable distance, the most productive vegetable oil, yielding between three to nine times more oil per hectare than alternatives and using fewer pesticides and fertilisers. The demand for oil would not abate following a boycott; demand would shift to oils that would cause far more forest loss. Local incomes in Malaysia and Indonesia, amongst others, are entirely dependent on palm oil. According to the IUCN, (International Union for Conservation of Nature) boycotting could mean that there'd be no incentives to produce sustainable palm oil. Producers would therefore be looking at lowering their prices and supplying markets where sustainability is not important. Alternatively, other oil crops that use up to nine times the land would be cultivated,. This is a view shared by many NGOs including the WWF.
To give some perspective:
Land required to produce 1 tonne of oil:
Palm - 0.26 hectares
Rapeseed - 1.25 hectares
Sunflower oil - 1.43 hectares
Soybean oil - 2 hectares
(source - IUCN - International Union for Conservation of Nature)
Unless a radical new palm oil alternative is found, sustainably sourced palm oil is the best option we now have.
Our Ashworth & Cox soap contains palm oil based ingredients from ethical manufacturers who are members of RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and POIG (Palm Oil Innovation Group). The UK made soaps that we resell are made using RSPO certified ingredients. La Savonnette Marseillaise, who make Marseille soaps, say that they "work with eco-responsible producers (RSPO charter) who are committed to sustainable development and the preservation of forests."
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to get in touch.