The Earth-Destroying Ingredient Hiding in Your Cosmetics

26 April 2018

The Earth-Destroying Ingredient Hiding in Your Cosmetics

Palm oil, a common ingredient found in thousands of everyday beauty products is devastating the environment. How can we stop this?

Social and Environmental Impart of Palm Oil

As a cheap commodity, the palm oil is widely used as one of the raw ingredients in various cosmetic and skincare products for our daily consumption, including shampoos, body wash, cleansing milk, lipsticks, nail polish and so on. As of 2015, around 70% of the world’s cosmetics and household detergent products contains raw materials derived from palm oil. The home and personal care industry consumes an estimated 5% of global palm oil and palm kernel oil (PO/PKO).

Indonesia is the world’s largest palm oil producer. Malaysia comes second. According to the Greenpeace Report, an average of 0.62 million hectares of forests in Indonesia is destroyed annually. Over the past 25 years, 31 million hectares of rainforests were devastated, which is equal to the size of Germany. Many cases of fires raging across forests and peat lands in Indonesia every year are primarily linked to the burning activities of the country’s palm oil enterprises. According to the estimates of the Harvard University and Columbia University, the smog outbreak as a result of rainforest fires may have caused over a hundred thousand of premature deaths in South East Asia. Such highly endangered animals as orangutans, Sumatran tigers are left homeless.

NGO Actions on Palm Oil

Many organizations such as Rainforest Alliance, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), World Wide Fund, and Rainforest Action Network believe that there are sustainable ways to source palm oil without devastating the environment with time-bound policies, third-party verification, and an insistence on total traceability back to the plantation source.

Among these organizations, RSPO is a not-for-profit organization that was established in 2004 to promote the growth and use of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). Its stakeholders include plantation companies, processors and traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, financiers, and civil society groups from countries that produce and use palm oil.

The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria that companies must comply with in order to produce CSPO. The standards make sure that the fundamental rights of local communities, plantation workers, small farmers and their family are respected and taken into account and that no new primary forests or high conservation value (HCV) areas have been cleared for palm oil production.

As of end-2016, CSPO makes up 19% of the world’s total palm oil supply. RSPO certified palm oil plantations cover an area approximately 34 times the size of Singapore island – and this continues to grow fast.

Certified Sustainable Palm based ingredients provide the mechanism for the personal care industry to make a step change, meeting consumer expectations and developing the pathway to full traceability.

Some of the global cosmetics companies, for example, P&G, Johnson & Johnson, L’Oreal, Unilver, Shiseido, etc., have committed to RSPO certified palm oil. We hope you will be the next to join force to protect the environment.


A palm oil plantation on deforested land, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia
Photo courtesy of WWF


This facility is owned and operated by New Britain Palm Oil Ltd. one of the first companies to be independently certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as being a leader in the production of sustainable and ethical palm oil in the world.
Photo courtesy of WWF
What can brand owners and manufacturers do to protect the environment?
  1. Be committed to responsible sourcing of palm oil and are working with suppliers, communities and knowledgeable organizations to find sustainable solutions to palm oil sourcing.
  2. Buy 100% of your palm oil from one of the RSPO approved supply chain options
  3. Purchase Green Palm Certificates - the trading scheme that allows manufacturers to buy certificates from growers to offset palm oil use
How buyers can help?

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.