Sustainable Palm Oil

Sustainable Palm Oil

The use of palm oil in natural products has become a hot topic of conversation recently. There is no doubt that portions of the palm oil industry do terrible things to the planet and destroy the habitats of wild animals. The palm oil industry has a self-regulating body called the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Brands that we work with source their ingredients that may potentially have hidden palm oil in them from suppliers who are a part of the RSPO.

A community based group, Palm Oil Investigations (POI), pulled their support for the RSPO in September last year which you can read about here. We fully support their mission to clean up the industry.

POI do not endorse a total boycott of palm oil, and neither do we

There are around 200 ingredient names that can ‘potentially’ be derived from palm oil. Many of them are found in some of the products in our store. They include things like glycerin, caprylic acid, cetyl alcohol, sodium stearate and more. If you see glycerin in a product, it ‘may’ be palm oil derived. It may not be. In this industry, brands work with RSPO approved suppliers. We have spoken to many of them directly. Is there a 100% guarantee that it’s sustainable palm oil? At the moment, it appears not.

Just today I spoke with a natural cleaning products manufacturer about this topic. They only use RSPO approved suppliers. From batch to batch of their ingredients, they may come from RSPO approved palm oil. The next batch of the same ingredient may be sourced from something else and be completely palm oil free.

It is important to know that many suppliers are understandably under the impression that they are using only sustainable palm oil derived ingredients. If they aren’t, in this climate, this isn’t the fault of the small business who is manufacturing the product. When this happens, this is devastating not only to us as a retailer and to our customers, but also to the brands themselves.

Boycotting these brands while we wait for a solution has the potential to ruin small businesses and we don’t think this is fair. We will NOT be a part of destroying the good people and beautiful brands we work with by boycotting them. They are in this position by accident. Reformulating and changing suppliers all takes time. We do not want to actively be a part of  causing their businesses harm while they go about effecting change. We are going to give them every opportunity to work with their supply chains and support people like the POI who are working to clean up the industry and effect change. It’s hard enough being a small manufacturer as it is, they certainly don’t need us boycotting them because they’re the victims of circumstance.

At the same time, a boycott of these products will hurt many of our customers, especially those with health issues and sensitivities who rely on the products they use now for their wellbeing. While we wear many hats here at Shop Naturally, health, eco, sustainable, zero waste, ethical, the top of our list is always the health and wellbeing of our customers. Everything else is nestled in just underneath that. So for this reason as well, we will not disadvantage our sensitive customers and boycott these products.

We are and always have been completely transparent in this store, and will continue to do so. As we speak to brands about this issue, we will let our customers know when there is RSPO approved palm oil in products and allow each of you to decide what is best for you. Retail is consumer driven. As a consumer, we urge you to vote with your wallet. If you want to avoid RSPO approved palm oil, that is a valid personal choice. You will always get an honest answer when you ask.

The same thing happened with natural sunscreen a while back

This is not the first time we’ve had an issue like this in the industry. Friends Of The Earth (FOE) used to publish a safe sunscreen list for natural sunscreen products that contained zinc oxide as their active ingredient. Their list was for sunscreens that used nano-free zinc. When revelations appeared that zinc oxide suppliers were actually not selling the nano-free zinc they all thought they were getting, the industry had a giant shakeup. Currently, you are not allowed to call anything nano free sunscreen and there is no definitive definition or test to show what is or is not nano free. We are still waiting for this to be resolved. We have an article dedicated to nano particles in sunscreen safety if you want to learn more about this topic.

Did we stop selling natural sunscreen when this happened? No. People still need protection from the sun and experts agreed that this is still the best solution for them until the industry changes and government bodies get in line.

BPA in baby bottles, drink bottles and food containers

Not long after we started our business in 2009, bpa in baby bottles was a H-U-G-E topic. BPA is an endocrine disruptor and can affect people’s hormones. Mums were unwittingly heating up milk in these bottles, the bpa was leaching out in to the milk and their children were consuming it.

It was in water bottles too. Our foundation was on being a completely bpa free store, and we still are to this day. We don’t sell baby bottles anymore because very quickly, the  industry self-regulated and they just don’t put it in hard plastics anymore. This is one instance where the industry self-regulated. It’s not in water bottles or food containers any more either, but you’ll still find bpa in the linings of some canned food at the supermarket and in the thermal receipts you touch every time you go shopping.

It’s all about respect

This topic is one that evokes a lot of emotions. The horror of the devastation for animals is one that touches everyone. Please know that we simply do not work with brands who will use any old palm oil they get for the cheapest price. It’s not what we’re about and it’s not what the natural health and wellbeing industry is about.

While making our decision to not join other retailers in boycotting products with untraceable RSPO palm oil, we also wanted to respect the brands we work with by supporting them while they help to effect change by talking to people down their supply chain and to also respect our customers who rely on these products for their health and wellbeing while we wait.

The conversation has been started. This is how change happens. It’s a great thing. Let’s just not ruin people’s livelihoods by boycotting responsible brands while the world and the RSPO palm oil industry catches up.


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