Palm Oil … I’m quite sure many, if not all, of you are well aware of this undeniably controversial ingredient, but the sheer extent of use of this vegetable oil, obtained from the fruit of the Oil Palm Tree might surprise you. Palm Oil is, in fact, one of the world’s most widely produced oils … from bread, cereals and biscuits to skincare, haircare and makeup, reports suggest that around half of all consumer goods contain Palm Oil. Staggering, right?
Though Palm Oil is primarily used by the food industry, around 1% of global production is said to feature in beauty and personal care formulas (with an enormous 70% of beauty products including Palm Oil). Three different sources and derivatives from the Oil Palm Tree are used – the oil extracted from the flesh of the fruits, the oil extracted from the kernel of the fruits and the derivatives produced from both as a result of refining processes.
Why is it so popular in beauty products? For several reasons … it’s creamy, smooth and free of any fragrance; it has a natural preservative effect on the formula; it is stable at high temperatures and – most importantly – has an incredibly high yield, as yet unrivalled by any other oil; requiring less than half of the land needed by similar crops to yield the same volume of oil.
In recent decades, however, global demand for Palm Oil has increased across every sector and, as it thrives best in tropical climes, countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have together seen themselves amass approximately 80% of the global business. The resulting environmental and social impact in these nations has been extreme – widespread deforestation, habitat destruction, animal species extinction and biodiversity loss. Understandably this has brought considerable controversy … more so most recently, as a result of a BBC documentary.
I’m sure, by now, you’re asking why I, among many of my fellow beauty brand founders and owners, haven’t boycotted this ingredient. I assure you, the solution is far from simple. Palm Oil itself isn’t the issue. How it is produced is. Thankfully, around 15 years ago, attitudes began to improve and progress began to be made. Sustainable Palm Oil was on the way.
In 2004, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established; a not-for-profit association uniting Oil Palm producers, processors, traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks, investors and NGOs to create global standards for sustainable Palm Oil production and implement a certification system. Strict criteria applies for all those in search of certification, from commitment to transparency and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity, to responsible development of new plantings and use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers.
In line with my personal commitment to bringing you the best skincare ingredients, as well as cruelty-free and vegan formulas, I’m naturally very aware of the many issues surrounding our use of Palm Oil, as well as the sustainability and traceability of the sources we use. I’ve worked closely with our formulations team and ingredients suppliers and I am committed to using certified RSPO Palm Oil in Studio10 formulas – even to the point of re-engineering products, if needed.
But is sustainable Palm Oil really the best solution? For now, yes, I can reassure you it is. I mentioned earlier that Palm Oil is an incredibly high-yielding oil. A decision from beauty brands like Studio10 to switch to an alternative oil would hike demand for that … yet, any alternative oil (at this moment in time) requires the use of larger amounts of land to produce equal amounts of oil. The environmental and social impact would only worsen – not to mention risk the livelihoods of the millions of farmers and their families employed in the Palm Oil producing industry in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia.
By continuing to work with our suppliers and raise demand for certified sustainable Palm Oil, these small changes in our decision-making add up to some pretty considerable purchasing power effects. The sourcing improvements we make don’t, of course, affect the quality and performance of any of our formulas meaning, when you combine this responsible sourcing with our cruelty-free and vegan commitment, you can relax in the knowledge that your Studio10 must-haves are guilt-free.