Balmforth & Co
palm oil

What is Palm Oil?

Posted on 07/01/2019 by RSL
Estimated reading time: 5 min read
Categories: Company News, Latest News, Sustainability

palm oil
  • Palm oil is cheap and efficient, making it the world’s most widely used vegetable oil
  • Widely used in the production of cakes, chocolate, biscuits
  • Up to 50% of products on sale in supermarkets throughout the UK contain palm oil

The Good

  • Palm Oil trees are highly productive, with a higher yield per square kilometre than any other edible oil. This makes palm oil trees the most efficient use of land for oil (produces twice as much as coconut trees and thirty times as much as maize)
  • Palm oil can be environmentally friendly, if it is grown and sourced sustainably

The Bad

  • Rapid growth in demand for palm oil has resulted in a rapidly expanding and unregulated industry. This is a particular problem in Malaysia and Indonesia, where 85% of all palm oil is produced
  • Vast swathes of rainforest have been cleared to make way for palm oil tree plantations
  • These plantations do not contain the same levelof biodiversity as the rainforest and cannot support the same native wildlife(including orangutans, tigers, elephants, rhinos and various other flora andfauna). This leads to falling wildlife numbers. Many of these species arealready classified as endangered or critically endangered
  • The tropical peat soils beneath the rainforestsare cleared and drained to create the plantations. This releases extra carboninto the atmosphere, contributing to greenhouse gas increases and globalwarming
  • In some cases, land was forcibly taken fromcommunities and developed into plantations
  • Worker’s rights within the palm oil industry arequestionable, with malpractice and dangerous working conditions widespread

The Challenge

palm oil
  • We cannot all stop using palm oil, as we need an alternative to continue to meet global demand for vegetable oils
  • The alternatives (e.g. coconut, olives, sunflowers, rapeseed, and maize) are not as productive per square kilometre. As such, more land would be required to be converted to agriculture to meet global demand. This would arguably create larger environmental issues
  • This land has an opportunity cost. To meet the extra demand for land required to produce the same quantity of other vegetable oils, rainforests or other environments/habitats could be destroyed. This would impact on biodiversity
  • This extra land would all need watering, fertilizing, and intensively farming –leading to soil erosion, depletion, pollution and damage to natural water resources
  • It is a misconception that forcing manufacturersto stop using palm oil will address all of the problems associated with itsproduction. As well as the environmental impact linked to the intensive farmingof oils producing a lower yield, there would be social impacts as millions ofpeople work within the palm oil industry

The Solution

  • Palm oil producers have worked with a number of organisations to produce and source palm oil more sustainably
  • Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an organisation aiming to make sustainable palm oil the norm. They aim to engage and commit all stakeholders within the palm oil supply chain, from consumers and manufacturers, to palm oil producers and governments, to the use of sustainably sourced palm oil
  • The RSPO has produced a set of environmental and social criteria to certify palm oil produced sustainably. When Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CPSO) criteria is followed, negative impacts of palm oil are minimised
  • The principles and criteria include:
    • No primary forest, area of significantbiodiversity or fragile ecosystems can be destroyed
    • Reduced use of pesticides and fires
    • Fair treatment of workers
    • Consultation with local communities over landuse

Refreshment Systems Ltd. position on palm oil products

“Refreshment Systems Ltd. is aware of the environmental and social issues surrounding the use of palm oil in a wide range of consumer goods, including many household snack products.

However, we do not believe a palm oil boycott is the answer. We recognise the importance of the palm oil industry in supporting the economies of developing countries, as well as creating jobs and opportunities for local people. Additionally, palm oil is the preferred choice for manufacturers due to its versatility, it is the highest yielding vegetable oil and is also the cheapest to produce. We believe transformation of the palm oil industry to create a socially and ethically responsible, environmentally sustainable and fully traceable supply chain would be preferable.

RSL supports responsible and sustainable production and practices, as certified by independent organisations such as the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), who work in collaboration with other key stakeholders such as governments, manufacturers and consumers.

We will endeavour to work with companies who can demonstrate an ongoing commitment to the responsible sourcing of palm oil from sustainable sources. This is in alignment with our core values of responsibility and integrity in business, as well as reflecting our ongoing commitment to carbon zero practices.”

Alistair Balmforth, Owner/Managing Director at Refreshment Systems Ltd

Palm oil statements from suppliers:

Nestlé: https://www.nestle.com/csv/raw-materials/palm-oil

  •  Goal is 100% responsibly sourced palm oil by 2020.
  • Goal is 100% sustainability and 100% transparency across the industry (e.g. oil traceable to mill, from suppliers with published sustainable best practices, labour rights protection, no deforestation.)
  • 100% of palm oil has been from CPSO certified sources since 2013.


  • 100% of palm oil has been from CPSO certified sources since 2010.

Mobberley Cakes:

  • 100% of palm oil used is sustainably sourced.

General Mills: https://www.generalmills.com/en/News/Issues/palm-oil-statement

  • 100% of palm oil has been from CPSO certified sources since 2010.

Oh So Scrummy:

  • No palm oil in use, but also RSPO certification.

Wicked Cakes:

  • No palm oil in use within Country Fruit cake or Lemon Drizzle Cake.


  • No palm oil in use within Haribo Starmix.


  • No palm oil in use in Lemon and Chilli Grills or the Quinoa, Hummus or Lentil Chips.

PepsiCo: http://www.pepsico.com/sustainability/palm-oil

  • Goal is 100% sustainably sourced palm oil by 2020. Will hit 50% RSPO certified by end of 2018.


  • 100% of palm oil used is CPSO sustainably sourced. Use very little.

KP Snacks: http://www.kpsnacks.com/responsible-business/social-responsibility/

  • 100% of palm oil used is sustainably sourced.

Jimmy’s Popcorn:

  • No palm oil used. Sunflower oil used.


  • No palm oil used. Sunflower oil used.


  • No palm oil used. Baked not fried.

If you would like to find out more or speak to a member of the team, contact us on 0800 169 3686 or click below to make an online enquiry

Co-author – Ellie Pinfield, Buyer – Refreshment Systems Ltd.Sources: Chester Zoo (https://www.chesterzoo.org/support-us/palm-oil/about-palm-oil), RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil)

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