It’s a complex and expanding environmental issue and we continue to be asked about the palm oil in our soap bases. And rightly so – deforestation and illegal clearing is causing devastation to tropical rainforests and ecosystems. Leaders involved in the palm oil industry, from growers to producers to end-use manufacturers, are aware of the challenges they face, yet many remain static whilst options are available.
A few years ago we chose to be different when it comes to sourcing our raw materials. We were the first soap base supplier worldwide to use 100% RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm and Palm Kernel Oil in our production. This was a step, but not a solution; we continue to work hard to raise the bar on our soap base and ensure that wherever and whenever possible we are making a difference.
We are now going above and beyond the requirements of RSPO, to raise awareness for the deforestation and destruction of Orangutan habitat in order to safeguard the future of this iconic species.
We were proud to welcome Michelle Desilets (Executive Director) of Orangutan Land Trust (OLT) to our facility in the UK to see and understand first-hand the steps we have taken to source and promote the right palm oil in the Personal Care and soap market worldwide, and discuss what more we can do together.
Michelle Desilets has been working in orangutan conservation for over 20 years. Michelle founded the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation UK to support the work of the BOSFoundation in Indonesia, which operates the largest primate rescue project in he world. As Executive Director of BOS UK, Michelle initiated a number of international campaigns to help orangutans, such as campaigns to end the illegal trade of orangutans and to repatriate known smuggled orangutans, as well as the campaign for sustainable palm oil. (She now sits on several working groups in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil.) She went on to found OLT in 2009 to focus on developing sustainable solutions for the long-term survival of the orangutan in the wild.
- So what is the Orangutan Land Trust?
Orangutan Land Trust focuses on supporting the preservation, restoration and protection of forests in the areas where orangutans naturally exist or have existed in the past. The main aim is to ensure that there are safe forest areas set aside for orangutans and other species which accompany them within their habitat to form a healthy ecosystem.
Funds raised by the organisation are used to survey forests to ensure that it is suitable to use for rehabilitated orangutans as well as secure and to protect forests to ensure that they remain safe and flourishing habitat for wild orangutans.
Orangutan Land Trust is backed by a Scientific Advisory Board made up of some of the best minds working in orangutan and forest conservation, sustainablitiy and policy. They represent a number of disciplines and specialties, and a range of regions throughout Malaysia and Indonesia. In this way, OLT can consider where the greatest needs and best possible outcomes can be found, backed by sound science. Its Board of Trustees includes leaders in academia, business, wildlife conservation and sustainability. All potential NGO partners in the field are assessed in regards to previous successful outcomes, their expertise, and transparency. Through such partners, OLT have supported biodiversity surveys, acquisition of land for a forest school for orphaned orangutans, community conservation efforts, legal assistance in cases where land has been illegally cleared, leasing and management of islands for sanctuary of orangutans, and releases of orangutans.
- What did Michelle find at Stephenson?
“We knew about the work of the Stephenson Group through word-of-mouth, and were told they were a company truly committed to sustainability. I wanted to know more about what this meant in real terms.” Michelle Desilets, Executive Director, OLT
You can read Michelle’s article following her visit to Stephenson just here:
It is following this we have agreed to support and play a part in the work that the OLT do to protect and preserve orangutans and their habitats. Stephenson soap bases will carry OLT’s “Forests4Orangutans Approved” logo, which signifies that the palm oil used in our products is deforestation-free and orangutan-friendly. Additionally, the use of the logo will help to raise funds and awareness for orangutan and forest conservation.
Michelle says, “Since the greatest threat to orangutans is the conversion of their habitat for palm oil, the most important thing we can do is ensure that the palm oil we use and consume is produced sustainably and not at the expense of forest ecosystems. Stephenson Group products make a real difference in ensuring the survival of the orangutan.”
This endorsement is exclusively promoted alongside our speciality soap bases and we are looking to work with customers and partners to carry this symbol in support of the work OLTcarry out, t
o promote deforestation-free palm oil and to save the orangutan from extinction.
It’s an item found in every home and is used every day. From basic, fragrance-free white bars to triple-milled, gold-flecked luxury bars, soap is something we simply can’t live without. Yet, every time we wash, we are in a position to affect the lives of people and wildlife thousands of miles away.
Orangutan Land Trust recently travelled to Leeds to meet with the team at Stephenson Group. A main part of the work of the Stephenson Group is in the area of Personal Care (http://www.stephensonpersonalcare.com/), and they provide soap bases for many soap manufacturers in the UK and globally. Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of Orangutan Land Trust, says, “We knew about the work of the Stephenson Group through word-of-mouth, and we
re told they were a company truly committed to sustainability. I wanted to know more about what this meant in real terms.” Having worked in the area of sustainable palm oil for many years, OLT were already aware that palm oil was often used to produce soap. The oil is ideal for soap manufacturing, with the palm oil which is extracted from the fresh fruit bunches providing hardness, and the palm kernel oil being used to give a soap bar its lather. In fact, of all the products using palm oil, with the exception of cooking oil itself, soap is probably the one product that has the highest percentage of palm oil in its composition. Approximately 75% of a bar of soap is palm oil! With several million bars of soap sold annually in the UK alone, that’s a lot of palm oil!
Peter Ellis, General Manager at Stephenson Personal Care, explained that the company sources only 100% Segregated Certified Sustainable Palm Oil for the production of their soap bases. Furthermore, all of this palm oil comes from New Britain Palm Oil Limited (NBPOL). NBPOL, whose plantations are in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, have long been leaders in responsible palm oil and are founding members of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG). The palm oil from NBPOL is not only certified by the RSPO, but also addresses the additional criteria of the POIG charter, ensuring no deforestation, no clearing peat and no exploitation.
So where can we find the soaps which are using soap base made from deforestation-free palm oil? Now that we know that it exists, and with manufacturers and retailers making promises to consumers to use only sustainable palm oil, which ones have put their money where their mouths are and are sourcing this ingredient? In fact, many companies have done the right thing in this regard. These include Sainsbury, Waitrose, The Body Shop, Marks & Spencer, Co-operative, 7th Generation, L’Occitane, Wilko and Crabtree & Evelyn. Missing from this list are Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots. Why? Is there not enough supply?
Peter Ellis answered, “We can readily supply their needs if they did decide to choose deforestation-free palm oil soap base. Availability of the ingredient is not an issue.”
If all the good companies mentioned can provide consumers with “orangutan-friendly” soap, what excuse do those other companies have for not doing the same? If we are to change the way palm oil is produced and ensure that it is not produced at the expense of forests, we need to insist that the products we buy are not linked with deforestation. And we need major retailers like Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Boots to get on board.
Please contact these companies in the UK and let them know you expect them to use deforestation-free palm oil in the manufacture of their soaps:
Tesco 0800 505555
Asda 0800 952 6060
Morrisons 0845 611 5000
Boots 03450 708090
Data from NAA’s Landsat 8 is now freely available, enabling researchers and the general public to access images captured by the satellite within twelve hours of reception. Landsat 8 launched this February and has been capturing…
Govt says no to converting peatland into plantations
Adianto P. Simamora, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Mon, 08/23/2010 9:45 AM | Headlines
Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan has turned down a request by the Central Kalimantan provincial administration to develop 127,000 hectares of peatland production forest for oil palm and mining sites.
The request was made by Central Kalimantan Governor Agustin Teras Narang and Katingan Regent Duel Rawing.
“Zulkifli rejected the request because peatland forests in Katingan are to be allocated for conservation projects,” Hadi Daryanto, the ministry’s director general of production forest development told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.
Central Kalimantan has the largest area of peatland of all the provinces. The peatland stores huge amounts of carbon.
Last month, UN climate adviser and philanthropist George Soros visited Katingan to inspect peatlands in the area, but Hadi was quick to point out that Soros’s visit had nothing to do with the government’s rejection.
The governments of Indonesia and Norway signed a letter of intent (LoI) on a climate deal in May requiring Indonesia, the world’s third-largest forest nation, to slow down forest loss. In return, Indonesia would receive US$1 billion from Norway under a climate change scheme.
The government would stop issuing new permits to convert natural forest and peatland for two years starting in 2011 with the pilot project for the moratorium to be announced in October at the latest.
A source told the Post that Central Kalimantan would likely host the pilot project.
Indonesia has 120 million hectares of forest, but the country’s deforestation rate hovers at 1 million hectares per year.
Zulkifli has repeatedly claimed he had not issued any permit to convert peatland for commercial purposes since he took office last year.
The 2007 Spatial Law prohibits the conversion of peatland with a depth of more than 3 meters.
Hadi said the ministry would implement new forestry mechanisms to shift income from selling timbers to ecosystem restoration projects. “Indonesia is the first country to implement the so-called innovative forestry mechanism,” he said.
The conservation projects would be held in former logging areas to restore damaged ecosystems and biodiversity.
Concession holders can reap money from trading in carbon in the forests, environmental services or opening ecotourism sites in the area.
“They could still be allowed to harvest timber, but it would not be their core business,” he said.
The permit for ecosystem restoration projects would be valid for 60 years and could be extended for another 35 years.
The ministry is looking to allocate 500,000 hectares per year for ecosystem restoration activities.
A map issued by the ministry indicates that conservationists could run ecosystem restoration projects in 40 million hectares in the country.
So far this year, the ministry has issued permits to PT Restorasi Ekosistem Indonesia (REKI) in Jambi and South Sumatra with 98,000 hectares and another 86,450 hectares to PT Orangutan Habitat Restoration Indonesia in the East Kutai district of East Kalimantan.
Malaysian planters urged to take cue from Sinar Mas case
By Amy Chew
Tuesday August 24, 2010
JAKARTA: Malaysian palm oil producers should heed the case of Sinar Mas Group where claims of forest destruction committed by its palm oil unit, PT Smart, led international consumer companies, including Unilever, to stop buying palm oil from the company, said environmentalists.
According to Greenpeace, Malaysian palm oil producers operating in Indonesia could suffer the same fate if they did not practice sustainable palm oil production.
“What happened to Sinar Mas can also happen to Malaysian companies who own about 30% of the palm oil companies in Indonesia,” said Bustar Maitar, Greenpeace South-East Asia forest campaigner team leader.
Unilever told StarBiz yesterday they would not be resuming purchase of PT Smart’s crude palm oil (CPO) for the time being.
“We would like to see additional measures to be taken to ensure sustainable palm oil production,” Sher Afzal Masari, Unilever corporate relations director for Asia, Africa, Middle East and Turkey, said.
Masari said Unilver would like Smart’s parent company, Golden Agri Resources (GAR), to have Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification for “all of its palm oil plantations.”
“We would also like GAR to set a target date for the certification,” Masari added.
Greenpeace’s claims that Smart was destroying forests and peatland had led Nestle SA, the world’s largest nutrition and food company, Unilever, the second largest consumer goods company as well as Kraft to halt multi-million contracts with Smart.
“Large consumer companies like Unilver, Nestle and Kraft do not want to be associated with forest destruction in Indonesia, Malaysia and anywhere else in the world,” Maitar added.
Unilever said it would also like GAR to operate more transparently and make publicly available a list of their forest concenssions and where they are planted.
“Sustainable palm oil is the way of the future and it is a requirement for any long-term supplier,” said Masari.
“Sustainable palm oil is also good for the sustainability of the palm oil industry, for all stakeholders and the wider public in Indonesia and Malaysia,” said Masari.
Unilever aims to be have 100% certified sustainable palm oil supply by 2015.
“And we are on track to achieve that target. By the middle of this year, we already have 35% RSPO for our supply,” said Masari.
At the end of 2009, 15% of Unilever’s CPO was RSOP. That amount comprised 80% of the total global RSPO supply.
Last Friday, Smart image took a further dent when independent auditors hired by the company to investigate Greenpeace claims announced the firm had “misreported” elements of its report when it declared itself largely free from wrong doings.
An environmental consultant said Sinar Mas’ woes with Greenpeace should not be viewed as a public relations war but an opportunity to investigate what is happening on the ground.
“Palm oil companies should not view the NGOs attacks on them as just another PR war,” said Rezal Kusumaatmadja, partner of Starling Resources.
Starling Resources is an independent sustainable natural resource management consultancy.
“Instead, they should treat the criticisms as an opportunity to examine what is really happening on the ground and find ways to improve the situation,” he added.
Sinar Mas started off on the right when they appointed independent auditors.
“But instead of addressing the problem identified in the audit report head on, they resorted to a panicky PR spin.
“Relying on too much on spin with little concrete follow up actions will cost them their credibility,” said Rezal.
Norway Government Pension Fund-Global, Oslo, divested from three companies found by the Norwegian Finance Ministry to be “contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity,” Finance Minister Sigbjorn Johnsen said in a news release.
The 2.79 trillion Norwegian kroner ($446.7 billion) sovereign wealth fund, which invests state profits from sales of Norway’s oil reserves, sold its shares in Israeli companies Africa Israel Investments and subsidiary Danya Cebus, and the Malaysian company Samling Global, according to the release.
The ministry’s Council on Ethics recommended the divestment, saying the Israeli companies were involved in building settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and Samling Global, a wood and palm oil company, engaged in illegal logging and other offenses.
The fund owned stocks worth 7.2 million kroner in Africa Israel Investments and 8.1 million kroner in Samling Global as of Dec. 31.