Cleaning your Conscience with Deforestation-Free Soap
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