Have a happy, sustainable Christmas
I like being asked at Christmas gatherings, “What is it that you do, exactly?” That’s because it’s the one time of the year that we’re likely to be near a table laden with perfect illustrations of the prevalence of palm oil and the need to produce it sustainably, and I can point to each tasty yet controversial food item as I answer.
See these mince pies? Palm oil is in the pastry, coating the fruit, in the syrup, and used in the factory to release each little festive treat from its baking dish.
Chocolate coated mini rolls? Palm oil is in the chocolate and in the sponge cake, and palm kernel oil in the creamy filling.
Vol au vents, cheese biscuits, quiches and individual pizza triangles… it’s like a Yuletide roll call of foods that have come to depend on a natural, reliable and versatile supply of vegetable oil and fat.
It doesn’t stop at food, and nor do I. Palm oil derivatives are found in the washing-up liquid we’ll use after the Christmas feast, in the shampoo and shower gel we used as we got ready for a night out, in the soap you’ll use when you wash your hands, and in the seasonal red candles decorating the table so very festively.
“Do you see how complex the issue is, when palm oil is used in so many products?” I’ll ask.
“I see,” my party companion will reply. “But surely manufacturers can just buy palm oil from the producers who work sustainably and clear their consciences that way?”
That’s when the Christmas cake becomes my friend. If it’s commercially produced, it could contain as many as 15 separate palm oil-linked ingredients, from the shortening and the marzipan to the glaze on the cherries, the coating on the candied peel and the shiny raisins, and that’s before we even get to the release agents used in the baking tins, the emulsifier in the margarine, and other materials used in industrial baking.
To trace the palm oil used in each ingredient, from plantation to processing plant, and to ensure it was kept segregated at every stage, would be a logistical nightmare, prohibitively expensive… well, it’s simply not possible right now if manufacturers want to get their cakes mixed and baked and sold in time for Christmas day.
Instead, The RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Book & Claim option, GreenPalm can cover the entire cake by supporting RSPO certified producers for an amount of palm oil / palm kernel oil equivalent to that used in the cake. Ultimately, whilst sustainable palm oil remains a niche it doesn’t matter where the sustainable oil ends up – the point is that responsible methods have been used in the first place, without harming people, animals or the environment.
The good news is in 2012 3.5 - 4 million tonnes of RSPO certified palm / palm kernel oil will be sold , supported & used by some of the largest global consumer brands, we hope more will join the growing RSPO momentum in 2013.
Wishing you peace at Christmas and joy and prosperity for the New Year.