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Biome is committed to not selling any products containing palm oil or its derivatives because of the associated habitat destruction and threat to endangered species. Some products in the EcoStore, Inika and Sante ranges do contain palm oil (read more below about this reason). We do not take on any new product lines that contain palm oil. We do not believe “sustainable palm oil” is a trustworthy alternative, but will continue to monitor the situation on Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).
What is Biome’s stance on palm oil?
Biome has a commitment to not sell any products containing palm oil or its derivatives. We still stock a small number of products containing palm oil but our policy is to support our suppliers to find an alternative sustainable ingredient before removing their goods from our shelves. For example, we helped encourage Beauty and the Bees to remove palm oil from their products. On our website we endeavour to clearly label such products with palm oil to help your decisions (as we explain below, it can be very tricky to know if an ingredient contains palm oil or not). Eco Store cleaning products company has published on its website full transparency about their purchasing of palm oil and is working within the industry to achieve Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. However, we will not take on any new product lines that contain palm oil and we will continue to monitor the situation on CSPO.
Palm oil free ranges offered at Biome include:
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is an edible plant oil from the fruit of the African oil palm (Elaeis guneensis).
What is palm oil used for?
The bulk of palm oil demand is created by the food industry (an estimated 40% of food found on our supermarket shelves contains palm oil). Commonly used as a cooking oil, palm oil is often the main ingredient in margarines and found in confectionary, ice cream and ready-to-eat meals. It is a base for many detergents, soaps, shampoos, lipstick, waxes and polishes. Palm oil is also used as an industrial lubricant and increasingly, as a biofuel (despite evidence it may actually increase greenhouse emissions).
Where does palm oil come from?
90% of oil palm is produced from large plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. Its versatility, high oil yield and relative cost has increasingly seen palm oil replace animal and other vegetable oils in a wide variety of products. It now currently makes up 35% of vegetable oil production worldwide (35 million tons). Global production of palm oil has doubled over the last decade and is expected to double again by 2020.
What is the issue about palm oil?
The most serious side effect of the growing popularity of palm oil is the removal of forest to make space for oil palm monoculture in Indonesia and Malaysia. The equivalent of 300 football fields are deforested every hour for palm oil production. This is causing major habitat destruction and threatening many species in these areas. Notably, deforestation due to palm oil is considered the single biggest threat facing Orangutans, and is directly implicated in the deaths of an estimated 50 per week.
What about “sustainable” palm oil?
We are often told by potential suppliers that they use "sustainable” palm oil. However, we believe this is unlikely and/or problematic as currently the effectiveness of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is yet to be proven. Manufacturers may claim to be using sustainable palm oil because they are members of, or supplied by members of, the RSPO. However, this in itself is no guarantee as members only need commit to "working towards" producing a sustainable product. The closest we can currently get to sustainable palm oil (as recommended by the WWF) is the RSPO’s Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). The next issue is convincing manufacturers to use CSPO. There is enough to meet Australian demand but it is not being purchased as these manufacturers are proving reluctant to pay the premium.
How can I tell if a product contains palm oil?
It is often hard to tell! In food it is generally labelled under “vegetable oil”. If it is a food product that lists vegetable oil and contains around 50% saturated fat, the ingredient will most likely be palm oil, palm kernel oil (from the same plant) or coconut oil. Other names to keep an eye out for that could be derived from palm oil are emulsifiers (E471 is a common one), cocoa butter equivalent (CBE), cocoa butter substitute (CBS), palm olein and palm stearine. In cosmetics, is labelled Elaeis guineensis. Other ingredients which may be palm oil based include sodium lauryl sulphate, cetyl alcohol, stearic acid, isopropyl and other palmitates, steareth-2, steareth-20 and fatty alcohol sulphates - but, this is tricky as some of these ingredients can be derived from coconut and other oils too). See this handy Palm Oil Ingredient Card.
Why can’t palm oil be more clearly labelled so I can make an informed choice?
Australians unknowingly consume on average 10 kilograms of palm oil each year and unclear food labelling makes it hard for people to exercise their consumer choice. There is an organised movement for mandatory palm oil labelling for food to become a reality in Australia. Recently a proposed Food Standards Amendment (Truth in Labelling Palm Oil) Bill was rejected by the House of Economics Committee. However, this year, we hope that with public pressure, this legislation will pass through government. Amongst many important issues, a provision within the bill mandates that retailers and manufacturers label their product as containing ‘CS Palm Oil’ if the product contains sustainable palm oil in accordance with the RSPO’s standards. Once palm oil is labelled, we can actually drive a market for CSPO.
Where can I find palm oil free products?
Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) has list of palm oil free alternatives. They include many brands that can be found at Biome:
Beauty & the Bees
Gunbower Creek Olives (Olieve range)
Pure and Green
Riddels Creek Toothpaste
What can I do to help?
Write to your local MP
Let them know your stance on palm oil labelling. Ask what they are doing to make labelling mandatory. Sample letters are available on the Palm Oil Action site. Visit Nick Xenophon's Truth in Labelling website for progress on the campaign to have palm oil compulsorily labelled in Australia.
Write to the manufacturers of your favourite products
Check the ingredients. If a food product contains palm oil (usually labelled as vegetable oil or fat), check with the manufacturer as to whether they use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (being a member of the RSPO is different to sourcing CSPO). You should then ask for a copy of the certification. If they cannot produce this, let the company know you will not be buying any more products from them until they prove they are using CSPO or another sustainable ingredient, and seek an alternative product. (Don’t forget to ask your favourite fast food suppliers as well).
Join the Australian Orangutan Project and donate what you can
You can do this by “adopting” an orangutan or giving money to help this organisation to purchase a large block of rainforest in Borneo.
Inform your family, friends and colleagues of the issue
Send them a link to this page, we’ve tried to round up the best sources on the issue of palm oil in Australia. Remember, public pressure can bring change! Complaints recently led Cadbury to remove palm oil from its dairy milk chocolate range in Australia and New Zealand! You can make a difference!
Sources: WWF, BOS Australia, Zoos Victoria, Truth in Labelling