Palm oil continues to kill orangutans by causing mass deforestation and hunting of the population. In Borneo the number’s are 50% less than they were in 19999 and will halve again in the next 35 years as more forest is cut down for paper and palm oil production according to a study by the Max Planck Instiute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. Immediate action is required to reform industries that harm orangutans and consumers should support brands and retailers that buy sustainable palm oil.

Palm oil is a key ingredient in many products – including NUTELLA, chocolate, shampoo and biscuits – and despite it having to be put on the labels now, we still are not doing enough about it. Did you even know Nutella contains palm oil? How many jars do they sell a year? They even have a National Nutella day. To be honest I had no idea that so many of the products we buy weekly in the supermarket contain palm oil, but if we, the consumers decided to vote with our feet we could actually make a real difference.  If we all stopped buying products that contained palm oil in,  then the bottom would drop out of the market.  It’s a very simple economic supply and demand argument.  We demand it.  Indonesia, Malaysia and increasingly Angola and the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Africa are supplying it.

Orangutan’s are very slow to breed and populations do not quickly recover when they are killed:-

orangutan baby

The Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer Magazine have done a survey of more than 70 brands of Easter eggs in response to the increasing threat that unsustainable palm oil is posing to the world’s rainforests, their indigenous wildlife (in particular the Orang-utans) and the people whose livelihoods depend on the forest.

I posted a survey a few years ago about palm oil content in Easter eggs. I can’t find an updated one – so apologies to any chocolate companies who have improved what they put in their chocolate. Do let me know if that is the case and I will happily amend the list. In the meantime, because I haven’t noticed a lot of action in the last few years it may be that Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian still come bottom of a league table of chocolate Easter eggs scored on use of unsustainable palm oil.

Guylain have subsequently emailed me with following information – so that’s good news and I’m looking forward to doing another review on the status of palm oil in August when they have fully removed palm oil from all their recipes:-

“More than 80% of all Guylian chocolates produced and sold are Guylian Belgian Chocolate Sea Shells. These are made with premium Belgian chocolate using 100% cocoa butter and filled with our signature Hazelnut Praliné. Guylian Seashells do not contain any vegetable fats, other than cocoa butter and do not contain palm oil.

Guylian is well aware of the environmental and social problems created by the traditional production of palm oil, which is why we currently subscribe to the GreenPalm certificate trading programme. All the palm oil currently used by Guylian comes from RSPO (the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) certified growers operating within strict guidelines for social and environmental responsibility.

From August 2018, Guylian aim to become the first Belgian chocolates brand to remove palm oil from all recipes. Palm oil will be replaced with Shea butter and Sunflower oil. This will result in smoother texture and even better tasting chocolates containing less saturated fat and sugar.”

The aim of the campaign is to encourage consumers to buy the best-rated products, forcing those companies that are not taking their environmental responsibilities seriously to use more sustainably sourced palm oil.

Divine and Booja-Booja were deemed to have the best overall credentials, with neither using any palm oil in their chocolate products. Traidcraft, Co-operative Food and Sainsbury’s also scored very highly. Waitrose, just one point lower. But my favourite Terry’s Chocolate Orange? Rubbish, right at the bottom – same with Flake – in fact same with all Kraft products that aren’t on their organic range.

The bottom three chocolate companies were deemed to be Lindt, Thorntons and Guylian. Lindt reportedly supplied inaccurate figures to Ethical Consumer, while Thorntons and Guylian failed to submit any documentation to the organisations that set international sustainable palm oil standards.

Cadbury now owned by US company had poor scores while Green & Black’s, well-known for its organic range, did much better.

The guide to chocolate is the first of a series of guides that will rate all consumer products using palm oil. Future guides will include biscuits, cereals and spreads.

According to a recent RFUK report, 1m acres of rainforest in the Congo Basin is being developed by palm oil producers. With 284m acres of suitable soil in the region, developers are actively seeking large sites.

Tim Hunt, co-director of Ethical Consumer, added: “Consumer power has the potential to help save the Congo’s rainforests and its wildlife that are under threat from palm oil production. This Easter we’re asking chocolate lovers to buy their Easter eggs from those chocolate companies that we’ve identified as taking an ethically responsible stance on this critical issue.”

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The popularity of oil palm is understandable, it is easy and cheap to grow and has a very high yield compared with other oil seed crops. Indonesia has grown it for generations and global demand has soared because it is an oil that is used in hundreds of household products, from shampoo and soap to doughnuts and chocolate.

We need to help change that landscape because unless we decide unilaterally to pay them to stop growing it as well as stop buying the product, how are they going to be encouraged to stop? Then we can so that we can encourage them to focus more on their eco-tourism instead.


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