Say No To Palm Oil


The term “Palm Oil” actually encompasses several types of oil derived from the palm tree, including palm oil, palm kernel oil, and fractionated palm kernel oil. Palm oil is literally everywhere – in our foods, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuels. It’s a source of huge profits for multinational corporations.

Palm oil, from the palm fruit, is about 50 percent saturated fat and fairly high in monounsaturated fats. Crude palm oil contains vitamin E, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. Refining the oil, however, reduces or eliminates these substances. (For more, see Red Palm Oil.)

Palm kernel oil, from the palm seed,is closer in composition to coconut oil than to palm oil. It is more saturated (about 80 percent), contains little monounsaturated fat, and often undergoes harsher chemical processing than palm oil.

Fractionated palm kernel oil is made by further processing palm kernel oil to remove the liquid portion, leaving behind even more saturated solids. This oil is often used in energy bars, for example, where it makes the coatings less likely to melt. It’s unknown if it is any better for you than partially hydrogenated oils.


The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) originated from West Africa, where evidence of its use as a staple food crop dates as far back as 5,000 years but were brought to South-East Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. The primary demand for the industry’s expansion came from the British Industrial Revolution. At the time, 250,000 tonnes of palm oil were being exported annually from South-East Asia.

Malaysia was the world’s largest producer of palm oil by the mid 20th century and this stayed true until the Indonesian government began investing into the industry in the 1970s. This expansion officially pushed the country into the lead spot for top producer in 2007 and the nation now supplies the majority of the world’s growing demand for this cheap edible oil.

Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago with over 17 000 islands, once used to be  covered in tropical forests until the largest of these islands were taken over by corporations and palm oil companies with the Indonesian government’s permission. This initially started when President Suharto came to power in 1967 and made it his priority to render Indonesia a politically stable nation with sustained economic growth. While this consisted of expanding multiple industries, such as manufacture and mining, in 1968 Suharto began investing in the Indonesian oil palm sector from which its slow growth began into the 1970s.

Palm oil has historically been recognized as being one of the world’s “major commodities”. It was brought over from Africa to Southeast Asia at the beginning of the 20th century. The initial demand for palm oil was  for use in candles and as lubricant for machinery. The invention of the hydrogenation process in Europe pushed the demand even further, and after WWII the oil became easier to transport and to use in numerous Western food products.


1) Impact On Environment

Environmental & social impacts of palm oil production. Large areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems with high conservation values have been cleared to make room for vast monoculture oil palm plantations.

Deforestation for palm oil production also contributes significantly to climate change. The removal of the native forests often involves the burning of invaluable timber and remaining forest undergrowth, emitting immense quantities of smoke into the atmosphere and making Indonesia the third highest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.

Pollution caused by the burning of secondary forests across Borneo and Sumatra increases the quantity of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, subsequently helping to excel climate change. Trees and plants filter such gas and release oxygen intern (through a process called photosynthesis). The removal of the forests themselves in these regions is therefore also a key factor contributing to the increase in atmospheric pollution, as less carbon dioxide is being removed from the air due to diminishing forests.

In addition to its impacts on the climate, conventional palm oil development causes severe damage to the landscape of Borneo and Sumatra and has been linked to issues such as land erosion and the pollution of rivers. The root systems of rainforest trees help to stabilize the soil and therefore if the forests are cleared, land erosion after rainfall can become a common occurrence.

2) Impact On Animals

In the past 10 years, the orangutan population of Sumatra and Borneo has decreased by over 20,000. This sharp decline coincides with a growing demand for palm oil in the U.S. Between 1990 and 2010, the average quantity of palm oil consumed in the United States increased by 2000 million pounds. Yikes. Over 98 percent of all palm oil used in the United States comes from Southeast Asia.

Wildlife such as orangutans have been found buried alive, killed from machete attacks, guns and other weaponry. Government data has shown that over 50,000 orangutans have already died as a result of deforestation due to palm oil in the last two decades. This either occurs during the deforestation process, or after the animal enters a village or existing palm oil plantation in search of food. Mother orangutans are also often killed by poachers and have their babies taken to be sold or kept as pets, or used for entertainment  in wildlife tourism parks in countries such as Thailand and Bali.

3) Impact On People

The palm oil industry has been linked to major human rights violations, including child labour in remote areas of Indonesia and Malaysia. Children are made to carry large loads of heavy fruit, weed fields and spend hours every day bent over collecting fruit from the plantation floor. Heat exhaustion and cuts and bruises from climbing thorny oil palms are commonplace in these cases, and more than often not, children receive little or no pay for their efforts

Among the 3.7 million people work in the palm oil industry, and thousands are child laborers forced to work. According to a report in Business Week, many workers are pulled into the industry through debt bondage or taken by human traffickers. Congruently, traffickers who are caught face few sanctions from government or business authorities.



What I found was astonishing, even to me: I use palm oil and its derivatives every single day. Multiple times a day.

Note: There are many chemicals and compounds that are frequently derived from palm oil but can also be made from other sources as well. Without contacting each company individually, I cannot confirm that these companies actually use palm-oil derived ingredients. These ingredients are noted with an asterisk.

1) Hand Soap

The bubbles and lather produced when you wash your hands with a bar of soap make you feel like you’re getting clean, but the foaming effect is actually a result of palm oil. Palm oil produces sodium lauryl sulfate, which creates the mass of small bubbles often produced by soap.


2) Toothpaste

Similar to the lather of soap, the foam produced when you brush your teeth with toothpaste is from the palm oil derivative sodium lauryl sulfate. As you brush, the friction causes the chemical’s molecules to rub up against and cleanse your teeth.


3) Cosmetics

Palm oil acts as a natural emulsifier that prevents the separation of oil and water in moisturizers and cosmetic products such as foundation, lipstick, and mascara.




4) Laundry Detergent

Manufacturers use palm oil, commonly labeled as sodium sulfate, to create a uniform density in the detergent. Want to know if your detergent contains palm oil? Look for a label marked “palm oil free” to find out.



5) Processed Food

Almost half of all packaged food products—including cookies, instant noodles, and pizza—contain palm oil. Used to add a creamy taste and a consistent texture, In the United States, palm oil is required to be included on food labels regardless of whether it is blended with other oils. Countries such as Australia and China allow “vegetable oil” as a label substitute.


6) Body Wash and Shampoo

Palm oil contains tocotrienol, a member of the vitamin E family. Rich in antioxidants, it removes dirt and oil from skin, making it a common ingredient in body wash and shampoo. A majority of shampoos also contain palm oil as a moisturizer. Conscientious shoppers should avoid products containing ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulfate and palmolein.



  • Look for the RSPO label to ensure you purchase products made with certified sustainable palm oil. This label gives you the confidence that the palm oil was produced in a socially and environmentally responsible way.


  • Look for the Green Palm label! This label indicates products in support of the transition to certified palm oil. Proceeds from Green Palm certificates help growers fund the transition to sustainable palm oil.


  • Sustainable palm oil is an approach to oil palm agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people.



  • Top Exporters Of Palm Oil

  1. Indonesia : US$15.4 billion (52.9% of total palm oil exports)
  2. Malaysia : $9.5 billion (32.7%)
  3. Netherlands : $1.1 billion (3.8%)
  4. Papua New Guinea : $437.5 million (1.5%)
  5. Germany : $369 million (1.3%)
  6. Guatemala : $282.6 million (1%)
  7. Colombia : $270.8 million (0.9%)
  8. Ecuador : $225.4 million (0.77%)
  9. Honduras : $224.1 million (0.77%)
  10. Costa Rica : $110.1 million (0.38%)
  • Top Importer Of Palm Oil

  1. India : Imported 10000 Metric Ton
  2. European Union : Imported 6600 Metric Ton
  3. China : Imported 5100 Metric Ton
  4. Pakistan : Imported 3300 Metric Ton
  5. Egypt : Imported 1600 Metric Ton
  6. Bangladesh : Imported 1500 Metric Ton
  7. United Sates : Imported 1270 Metric Ton
  8. Myanmar : Imported 900 Metric Ton
  9. Malaysia : Imported 800 Metric Ton
  10. Russian Federation : Imported 800 Metric Ton


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