Companies worldwide are touting their use of responsibly sourced palm oil. In one corporate responsibility report after another, food manufacturers state that the origin of palm oil makes a difference, and that they are dedicated to using only sustainable palm oil. You’re not alone if you’re bewildered by these statements. What is palm oil and what is responsible palm oil sourcing, anyway?
What is palm oil?
Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree which only grows near the equator. The tree produces large quantities of fresh fruit bunches throughout the year. It’s very efficient: A single acre produces 11 times more oil than a soybean field. The oil, produced from squeezing the fruit similar to olive oil, is highly prized by food producers for its balanced fatty acid profile and neutral flavor. This oil is also naturally resistant to spoilage, trans fat-free, rich in vitamin E and non-GMO.
Why is responsibly sourced palm so important?
Many American companies prefer to use Malaysian palm oil due to its strong environmental standards. Oil palm plantations in countries other than Malaysia have been blamed for deforestation which has displaced native animals such as orangutans and elephants. Some radical environmental groups have called for a palm oil boycott, but experts state that this is short sighted. “Simply boycotting products containing palm oil – or any other commodity linked to deforestation – will not stop the destruction,” said the Greenpeace Global Palm Oil Coordinator. She states that companies, both palm oil producers and manufacturers, need to be an active part of the solution. That is why companies large and small are beginning to proclaim their palm oil sources.
Malaysia is a trusted supplier of sustainable palm oil because it adheres to the 3P model of sustainability: People, Planet and Profit. Malaysia’s highly regulated palm oil industry follows ecologically sound Good Agricultural Practices. This progressive Southeast Asian county has also followed through on its 1992 pledge to keep an astonishing 50 percent of its land under forest cover. This has kept Malaysia one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, and its palm oil industry one of the most respected.
Robin Miller is a health and nutrition editor with more than 30 years of industry experience. She researches and writes about the nutritional benefits of palm fruit oil, with the goal of giving readers factual, science-based information that will be useful in their daily lives.