EPISODE SEVEN
ARTIST: MIYA FOLICK
TOPIC: PALM OIL, STICKY N SWEET
Palm oil. While you may have never purchased it on it’s own... it’s probably in your fridge, pantry, or bathroom without you knowing. It's everywhere. 
Palm oil is derived from a specific species of palm tree native to West Africa. It was imported into SE Asia in the mid 19th century.  Oil palm flourishes in the humid tropics and produces high yield when grown 10 degrees north and south of the equator. Now the majority of the world’s Palm Oil comes from Indonesia, where you’ll find some of the Mother Earth’s pristine rainforests. As the world’s MOST traded vegetable oil, it’s in around 50% of packaged foods in supermarkets!! Let’s just say it’s popular. It’s not going away. Actually, the stuff is pretty cool. The only problem is that we’re cutting down large swaths of rainforests to grow it.  

Let’s break it down. 
THE PALM OIL BREAK DOWN
Palm Oil is extremely versatile: it can be used in a ton of different products.  At room temperature it remains semi-solid, so it can be used as an additive in spreads to keep them from getting too…."loosey-goosey” (No-stir peanut butter almost always has palm oil in it.)  It gives products a longer shelf life and stays stable at high temperatures which makes it a perfect oil for frying.  It has no smell or taste so it goes well in just about everything. Palm Wax is used in the manufacture of candles, cosmetics, cleaning products, hair care, soaps and personal care items. Palm Oil is also used to manufacture bio fuel and used as feed for livestock. It's basically the perfect oil.
PALM OIL IS CHEAP
Like really cheap. Palm Oil produces the most product per land area by more than 5x than any other equivalent vegetable oil. It’s a very efficient use of land.  
The less land, the better it is for the environment?  Right? 
Well...kinda. 
Palm Oil is so popular we are losing rainforests to make space to produce more of it.
In order to clear up more land for production, plantations are deforesting significant amounts of the world's most bio-diverse wilderness areas.  Basically, when you take a super life-dense rainforest and turn it into a single crop farm, that releases an insane amount of carbon into the atmosphere. How much forest are we losing? It’s estimated that we lose approximately 300 football fields of rainforest every hour to palm oil production.   

WE’RE ALSO LOSING PEATLAND
Peatland is a common and very specific type of wetland that is found in almost every country on earth.  It also happens to be the most biodiverse and carbon rich habitat that exists on this planet.  The palm oil industry is draining tropical peatland at an alarming rate, and it’s really bad for the environment. Damaged peatlands contribute to about 5.6% (!) of all global carbon emissions emissions.

IT’S NOT GOING ANYWHERE
Compared to other vegetable oils, Palm Oil is by far the most efficient in land use. It’s also the most versatile oil, so getting rid of palm oil would reduce the quality of a lot of our favorite products. For companies to be responsible, in the long term it is better to work WITH the palm oil industry and shift them to sustainability rather than to try to boycott the use of their products. 
THE SOLUTION TO A STICKY SITUATION
Long story short... we need to stop supporting farms that are cutting down protected forest.  It’s a simple concept, but unfortunately a complicated solution. The issue is that our global supply chain is so heavily linked to the Palm Oil trade that this process will take some time. 
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
Right now the answer lies in "sustainable" Palm Oil.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 to tackle this very issue.  The organization has a certification process for companies committing to 100% sustainable palm oil. Due to the average consumer’s growing concern for our world climate, companies are incentivized to have RSPO certified products. 
The word “Sustainable” has lost a lot of it's meaning in the past couple of years. To combat this, RSPO has taken a multi-faceted approach towards defining truly sustainable palm oil.  Unfortunately it’s complicated so we’ll just give a little summary. 

Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) guarantees that since 2018:
-No land was deforested to grow the palm fruit 
-No local communities were protesting the plantation
-All local laws were followed
-The farm is treating their employees with best human rights practices

There are many more stipulations in the 2018 principles and regulations update that would take an entire research paper to explain.  You can trust us at FRAMEWORK though. We looked through a lot of it and it looks pretty good.  

RSPO IS NOT PERFECT
Up until 2018, the Palm Oil industry took advantage of loopholes in RSPO’s certification.  It turns out that a farm that recently cut down rainforest could still gain sustainability certification if they let a certain amount of time pass since the cutting.  Environmental organizations claim that this is a “greenwashing” tactic to maintain the status quo.  When RSPO changed their principles and criteria in 2018, they amended this issue. 
The principle states that in order to gain certification:  “Land clearing since November 2005 has not damaged primary forest or any area required to protect or enhance HCVs. Land clearing since 15 November 2018 has not damaged HCVs or HCS forests.”

Palm Oil is sticky and sweet. 
Sticky because the production and land use is by no means good for our planet, our carbon output or biodiversity. Sweet because the oil has countless positive uses and has less of an impact then other vegetable oils on the market. For the most part, people AND companies want to find a way to make sustainable palm oil a reality.  We’re well on our way.  While RSPO certification has it's flaws, it’s still helping reduce the imprint that so many profit hungry corporations leave behind. So if you can, try to buy products with RSPO palm oil, e-mail your favorite companies that don’t comply, avoid Palm Oil if you don’t want it, and most importantly, talk about this issue with your friends and family
READ OTHER EPISODES HERE.​​​​​​​
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that's the framework.
ADDITIONAL READING/REFERENCES:
https://www.palmoilinvestigations.org/about-palm-oil.html
https://www.rspo.org/principles-and-criteria-review​​​​​​​