RSPO the challenge we face
It's a complex market and challenging product to trace, the finished goods market is littered with claims and lack of clarity.
It’s a complex and growing enviromental issue, we continue to be asked about the Palm Oil in our soap bases, rightly so….Deforestation and illegal clearing is causing devastation to tropical rainforests and eco-systems. 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 we were proud to make and has seen us progress to develop a wide range of RSPO certified soap products and assit leading brand and retailers acheive their CSR and RSPO objectives.
To give you some context here, the palm oil content of a soap bar is incredibly high, in fact around 50%-70% of a soap bar is made using Palm Oil depending on the blend of oils used to create the soap. The oil Palm is used to give the soap bar hardness, and stability when combined with Palm Kernel (or Coconut, in some cases) for lathering performance, it is this blend of oils that ensures the soap doesn’t soften and dissolve too quickly when being used.
It is this overall oil palm content that makes soap bars a large proportion of some brand & retailers overall palm oil usage, “all the more reason to make a switch from ‘standard / conventional’ palm oil to RSPO” you may say….. not quite that simple here’s how a supply chain operates:
We made a stance some time ago, in fact as soon as we could to switch exclusively to using 100% certified sustainable palm and palm kernel oil (segregated RSPO) in our soap base production with the belief that many of the Major brands and retailers would do likewise, sadly we are yet to see some of the leading Grocery retailers take this step, despite public commitments to do so.
This is a pressing enviromental issue, globally. We set out to acheive more from our supply chain, to provide our customers with peace of mind and tracability, transparency of our stock and control. We wanted to ensure and understand that our Palm Oil use was not only sustainable but developed partnerships, benefited communities, protected bio-diversity, and provides fair standards for workers and small holders throughtout the supply chain.
However these measures are only converted to results when retailers and brands get involved and support the RSPO, to a greater extent than simply becoming a ‘member’ of RSPO….So let’s try and clear up some certfifcation levels, claims and supply chain complications littering the Personal Care Market.
- IP & SG - One supply chain system segregates out certified palm oil from other oil, either as “Identity Preserved” in which the palm oil is kept physically separate from other palm oil throughout the production process, or as “Segregated,” which mixes together palm oil from various certified plants (although a plant’s subcontractors don’t have to be certified).
- MB - The second system, referred to as “Mass Balance,” mixes certified palm oil with other stocks of non-certified palm oil.
- Book & Claim - GreenPalm, a subsidiary company of RSPO founding member and vegetable oil manufacturer AarhusKarlshamn UK Ltd., operates a third supply chain system called “Book and Claim.” In this process, RSPO-certified palm oil producers can register their CSPO palm oil for GreenPalm certificates, which buyers can then purchase through GreenPalm’s online trading system. A step but no real solution.
“RSPO Certified Sustainable Oil is not widely or readily available” = Not true over 12 million tons is now being produced.
“My Oil Supplier is a member of RSPO” = This does not guarantee that the oil supplied is Certified RSPO.
“I buy Green Palm Certificates” = Again, a side step to actually buying physical RSPO certified oil – when available for soap production.
“We use sustainable Palm Oil” = Ask to see and understand the certfication number and certification level (IP / SG)
“We use 100% RSPO Certified Palm Oil our Certification number is 000000” = This is creating change.
It was a simple choice for us. We can be sure that every drop of our Palm & Palm Kernel Oil is derived from the sustainable plantations in Papua New Guinea that have been developed without any large-illegal destruction and de-forestation of rainforest, an aspect that is now too common with many of the mainstream oil palm plantations, and suppliers.
The certification levels can be seen and understood in the illustration below:
Processors and traders play an essential role in ensuring the flow and demand of sustainable palm oil through the supply chain to the customer. As a soap base supplier, our products may not carry an actual RSPO / Sustainable trademark. However, we established and have played a key role in developing a traceable segregated supply chain in order to support, promote and allow the RSPO trademark to be used on-pack by our downstream customers worldwide so understanding every aspect of our supply chain is crucial.
Here are some examples of leading brands and retailers making real commitment to change.
They key behind true supply chain segergation and support is the ‘on-pack’ certification and RSPO icon used, this illustrates the retailers transparency their commitment and the steps taken to ensure full traceability on the supply chain.
It’s great to see a selection of leading brands and retailers staying true to their sustainability commitments. Companies such as Marks & Spencer, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, The Bodyshop, L’Occitane, The Coop and many more all doing the best they can in a complex and challenging market. You learn more about the brands and products making change just here.
Let’s be frank, RSPO can’t address the global issue, it’s not the whole answer, however it is a step, a process and when 100% RSPO sustainbale Palm & Palm Kernel Oil is available changes can and should be made. We and the market continue to wait for many of the Major retailers to make tangible change….their time approaches.
Ask yourself when you next pick up your soap bar, is this brand making a difference. We believe the change is in our hands.