Palm oil has been hotly discussed this year, and 2018 has seen some big retailers opting out of using palm oil altogether. Shoppers may be concerned about buying products that contain palm oil and may even think of palm oil as a cruel, unethical ingredient that is fundamentally unsustainable. However, as our CEO (Cosmic Engagement Officer) David Bronner puts it, “Any crop can be grown sustainably or unsustainably, and palm is no exception.” Palm oil itself is not an unethical ingredient, but the farming practices that many large-scale operations use to harvest it often are.
Known for its versatility, palm oil is in up to 50% of all supermarket products but many large-scale palm oil plantations cause devastation to the local rainforests and primates. Dr. Bronner’s, on the other hand, sources 100% of its palm oil directly from sustainably-harvested palm fruits in Ghana’s Eastern Region. The project is owned and coordinated by Serendipalm, Dr. Bronner’s sister company in Ghana. The company buys palm fruits exclusively from 500 small organic family farms which use organic and regenerative agriculture practices to improve the health of the soil and, as Dr. Bronner’s rallying call goes, ‘Heal Earth’.
For consumers, the solution lies within doing your research on brands and ingredients. If palm oil is an ingredient, investigate where that palm oil is coming from and what the product manufacturers are doing to support farmers. Find certified fair trade products that are clear about where their ingredients come from and if in doubt, avoid that product. While products made from organic and fair trade palm oil are still rare, supporting the production of organic and fair trade palm oil will accelerate the spread of such practices and help establish palm oil as a crop with excellent economic and ecological potential – if grown and farmed properly.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Bar Soap uses this fair trade, organic and sustainably sourced palm oil as a major ingredient – it helps the bars maintain their firmness and stops them dissolving too quickly. We also use other fair trade oils like organic olive oil or organic coconut oil which comes directly from Serendipol, our sister company in Sri Lanka that harvests coconuts and gives its farmers a fair wage and excellent working conditions.