Palm oil unjustly ignored
According to a recent survey, one Belgian out of two thinks that palm oil is harmful for the environment. However, it seems that this oil suffers from a bad reputation and that consumers are not very familiar with its origin, its properties, and its impact on the environment compared to other oils available on the market.
A clear lack of knowledge
A practically unknown certification
According to a recent iVOX survey of a thousand people conducted on behalf of Kruidvat, half of the Belgians think that palm oil is harmful to the environment. However, most of the respondents are not aware of the worldwide efforts for a more sustainable palm oil industry. Almost 90% of respondents have never heard of the RSPO label, the certification for more sustainably produced palm oil. Note, however, that it seems that the younger generation is generally better informed.
Little known uses
The study also shows that Belgians know little about the applications of palm oil. Most of them associate it with sun cream, shower gel, make-up or even shampoo. However, many other products can contain palm oil, such as toothpaste, deodorant rollers, cleaning products, pizza, donuts, lipstick and many others. Palm oil is present in many products and is found in the composition of nearly 50% of the packaged products you find in supermarkets.
In fact, palm oil is a fairly versatile product with many properties. At room temperature, it helps to keep products spreadable. It resists oxidation, which is useful for the conservation of products. It is colourless and odourless and therefore does not alter food items. Moreover, being stable at high temperatures, it can be used as cooking oil.
Finally, there is another advantage of palm oil production. The crops used on other oils, such as sunflower or soybean oil, requires up to ten times more land*.
Sustainable farming is possible
Often, the cultivation of palm oil is pointed out as a source of deforestation, production of greenhouse gases and so on. This is one of the findings of the iVOX study recently published on behalf of Kruidvat. Only one in five people believe that palm oil is a sustainable product, 20% disagree and even 30% are convinced that sustainable palm oil does not exist.
However, there is a worldwide certification: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil or RSPO. This is an independent standard that ensures that production follows strict standards, that the land is used properly, without untimely expansion, and that workers' rights are respected.
Kruidvat announces a target of 100%
Leendert van Bergeijk, CSR manager at Kruidvat commented the study and announced the group's commitment to only source certified products when they contain palm oil: "We will still need palm oil for years to come. There is simply not enough agricultural land to completely replace palm oil production with another vegetable oil. And if we avoid using palm oil, we are shifting the problem since we are using a vegetable oil of another origin, which requires more space and land to produce. To help consumers make a sustainable choice, we want 100% of our private label products containing palm oil to have at least RSPO "mass balance" certification by 2025. Today, already 82% of our private label products contain RSPO "mass balance" certified palm oil."
In summary, instead of blindly boycotting palm oil, consumers and retailers who rightly want to do something for the environment should educate themselves and not shun any product containing palm oil. Instead, they should opt for those that are RSPO certified.
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