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Palm Oil Free as a branding proposition.

April 1, 2014

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am often banging on about palm oil and have been blogging about it and the fore’s and against’s for many years.

Well today I have been thinking about this topic some more.

The market for ‘palm free’ as a branding proposition is growing globally and has been for some years based on concern over the state of the ‘lungs of the earth’,  our rain forests. Indeed,  the first time I heard of palm oil was back when I was an 18-year-old girl and living at home in good old blighty.  I raised some money and trooped off to save the Orang Utans on a scientific research project and began my involvement with the beauty that is South East Asia and its rainforests.

Fast forward to now.

Over the past three or more years the number of materials (Chemicals) available to us cosmetic chemists that are ‘palm free’ has grown at a steady pace making it possible today to make a whole range of cosmetics (be that quite a restricted range in terms of performance, stability, price and functionality) without touching palm or its derivatives.

Ingredient manufacturers such as Dr Straetmans, Inolex, Danisco, Seppic and Sinerga spring immediately to mind but there are more besides.

But that isn’t what I want to talk about.

Despite the fact that ‘palm free’ is on the radar of these and other manufacturers it doesn’t mean that as a chemist or as a brand owner ‘Palm Free’ should be mandatory for all and that’s my main point today.  It is neither practical or desirable for palm oil and its derivatives to completely disappear from our cosmetic labs. Indeed, if the whole cosmetics industry went palm free tomorrow the worlds forests would have to make way for massive fields of Canola, Soy,  Coconut or whatever other less-productive crop took its place and that could seriously hurt.

Now might be a good time to remind you all that all synthetic ingredients are palm free.  Be careful what you wish for????

Vegan friendly brands exist alongside regular cosmetics.

Organic alongside natural

Natural next to ‘high tech active’

and high-tech next to hand-made.

It takes all sorts to make a world and takes all sorts of approaches and angles to solve the worlds problems and it also pays to remember that what sits well with one person might not with another.

Taking the view that palm free is the only way (or even the most important way) to solve the cosmetic industries environmental issues is akin to saying that communism is the only way to ensure that everything is fair for everyone.  It IS a solution of sorts but is that REALLY what you want/ how you want to live? OK so that may not be the best example but hopefully you get what I am trying to say.

Some other options that don’t include boycotting palm outright are:

  • Sourcing certified palm from sustainable plantations.
  • Creating efficient products so you use less.
  • Multi-functional products.
  • Concentrated products to save on shipping.
  • Making products more expensive so you value them for what they are truly worth.
  • 95% (or whatever) locally sourced.
  • Organically certified.

and I am sure you can think of more creative solutions.

One final word from me is this.  I have NEVER been a fan of ‘free from’ marketing and love that the EU have cracked down in this.  That said it is a bit of a tag line and introduction into the world of sustainable sourcing and for that reason it has its merits. Life is never black and white.

So in a nut shell (palm nuts)  what I am saying is that palm oil free is just one way to enter into the sustainable/ environmentally friendly cosmetics world.  It may be a very emotive and popular way but it isn’t the only way so let’s keep that in mind when we go down to the store or go out into the big wide world of product spruiking.

The supply chain for palm oil and its derivatives is complex and does need to be better managed.  I am confident that with the right energy and focus these issues can be fixed and if they can be fixed there is every chance that the world for everyone, including Orang Utans can be a better place.

Amanda x



One Comment leave one →
  1. Maria permalink
    May 1, 2014 7:51 pm

    Sustainable palm oil is a great idea, but unrealistic for the actual palm oil demand. It is easy to fake unsustainable palm oil as sustainable, extremely easy. This can be seen if we consider the social and political conditions of the areas where palm trees are grown, the actual person to person interactions in places like customs and ports in the countries where palm is cultivated. Mixing containers that contain different palm from different sources, confusion with paper work (very convenient confusion). I also come from that kind of society, grew up there. Forget about sustainable palm oil for now! And so for now, again due to the massive scale of palm oil consumption and use, very much disguised, I would say the most appropriate is to say simply no to palm oil. Of course your other suggestions are still valid. Best regards,

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