Nixing palm oil will do more harm than good

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In Singapore, specialty chemical maker Croda is making the case that shifting to sustainably sourced palm oil in personal care products—as opposed to completely reformulating to palm oil alternatives—would be better for the environment and people living and working in cultivation areas.

Though a biobased product, the palm oil industry has faced criticism for widespread deforestation and exploitation of indigenous communities.

“We know that palm oil is the most effective biobased plant material that you can have,” Magali Bonnier, Croda’s research and technology director/personal care-APAC said at a recent conference. “When you look at the water, land, how fast it takes to grow and harvest palm oil… it is the most efficient. If you go on to use an alternative, you will have a higher carbon footprint.

Bonnier also noted that NGOs are not asking brands to reformulate without palm oil, but rather to use sustainable palm oil—an industry feeding seven million workers and their families. “They are depending on that industry.”

Seventy percent of Croda’s products use palm oil as feedstock. The company only uses Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil certified product, she adds.