Stowaway Crabs Threaten Biodiversity of Waters off Iceland

Ice News, an independent news resource covering Iceland, Scandinavia, and Northern Europe, reported that the Atlantic rock crab, typically native to coastal areas of North America is making its way to Icelandic waters, but not by itself. It seems they are stowaways in the ballast water of ships traveling to Iceland. The Atlantic rock crabs arrived in the cold Nordic waters sometime in 2000 and are multiplying rapidly. Researchers at the University of Iceland are worried that the crabs will quickly over-take native species and out compete other crabs.

Halldor Palmer Halldorsson of the University of Iceland’s research center worries that the crabs are only growing in size and number. Halldorsson commented,

“The crabs which have been caught are as big as some of the biggest caught in their natural habitat. The females also carry many thousands of eggs. The distribution seems to suggest that the animal is thriving.”
The Atlantic rock crabs compete for the same food sources as the native crabs and will also eat other crabs’ eggs. Compound that with the reproduction rate and the biodiversity of the cold Iceland waters will quickly begin to falter.

This summer the research center and Marine Research Institute will begin to tag the Atlantic rock crabs. By tagging the crabs they hope to see where the crabs travel and gauge just how large the individual crabs are becoming.

Though they are caught for the seafood trade off the coast of North America it has not been determined whether the crabs on the coast of Iceland can also be exploited commercially. For more news on this developing research visit Ice News at

What time is it? It is time for change!

There is much confusion about how each person, business and community globally, has affected biodiversity. The ways in which biodiversity is being effected can been seen all around. We read about in the news, from the changes with coral refs and the affects that come to small communities from oil spills. But what we as a community both small and large, don't know is that any step towards accecptance that these harsh ways are effecting today and our future environment to come, can be changed in simple measurable ways, taking small steps can make a big difference.

One company in particular, an electric company is taking a leap of faith and setting an example for many companies around. Mitsubishi Electric is about instilling in its employees a better way of not only producing a product that people need, but finding ways to manage waste and understanding the environment that is being affected by this production and protecting it.
The company has put together an employee participation activity which they have so eloquently called the "living creatures study" that is included in their primary work duties "to help all employees understand the relationship between business activities and biodiversity, and incorporate this understanding into their day-to-day activities." This includes the employee to manage the ecosystem surrounding the company, understanding how it works and how to preserve it for future generations. Much can be learned from Mitsubishi Electrics 85 years of experience in business and the willingness to create an environment which works for a better today, tomorrow and future.

Follow the link below to learn more about the small steps this big heart-ted company is taking to make a difference, setting an example of small steps towards big change.
blog author:Michelle Connolly

Project POTICO

As part of Indonesia's REED+ strategy, the World Resource Institute (WRI) is planning on moving new palm oil plantations onto degraded land rather than encroaching on natural forest. This project is called project POTICO and it pursues to enable sustainable palm oil expansion. At first, the idea is to pursue these goals on small scale as part of a pilot project and then scale it up across the country.

What is degraded land?

Degraded land is land that has lost some degree of its natural productivity due to human-caused processes.”

The definition is somewhat vague, and in the case of project POTICO, experts are looking at areas with low carbon stock which means the ability of land to absorb carbon out of the air.

This approach to the palm-oil industry allows for the expansion of plantations as well as the protection of natural forest in Indonesia. For more information about project POTICO, visit this website.

Green Palm Sustainability

The solution seems simple enough; buy products that contain sustainably produces palm oil. Unfortunately, things are not quit that easy. A recent article shows, that the label which stands for sustainable palm oil isn't without fault.

“However, critics say the trademark may confuse rather than reassure the average shopper. Products such as chocolate or cakes, stamped as containing sustainable palm oil, will be allowed to include up to 25 per cent non-sustainable oil under RSPO rules. Those labeled “mixed” may, in some cases, contain no sustainable oil.”

As mentioned in previous posts, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is faced with difficult challenges that go beyond putting a simple label on some product. There are a variety of groups involved in the process, each with their own agenda. The article goes on and states that there are some that just want a quick solution and others that want the perfect solution which is more complicated for the consumer and takes more resources to implement.

Fact is, that the RSPO is trying to better the situation. It might be a hard way, but certainly worth fighting for.

Unilever Moves Toward Sustainable Palm Oil

Unilever, "a British-Dutch multinational corporation that owns many of the world's consumer product brands in foods, beverages, cleaning agents and personal care products" (source) including Dove, Lipton, Axe/Lynx, Sunsilk, TIGI, and more, have made it an official effort to move toward sustainable palm oil.  The company has been recognized as a sustainability leader by SustainAbility's 2011 survey, and was awarded a Responsible Business Award in the High Performance category by the Ethical Corporation.  A large company like Unilever (and especially one that is such a large palm oil producer such as this one) taking this initiative is sure to strike up awareness and sustainable practices in other places.  Unilever CEO Paul Polman says that a big part of their actions will be to "change consumer habits to aid in conservation," reminding us that as consumers, we can have an impact on this issue as well.  In addition, Polman wants to bring this initiative to other businesses: "It is a very simple message: you can wait for governments and use it as an excuse, you can wait for technology and use it as an excuse, but there are many things we can simply do now, and that business can do now. And it does make good business sense. There may be a slight cost in acting in some cases, but I think they are the exception. The cost of not acting and the cost of failure is going to be far higher.”

See Paul Polman talk about Unilever's move toward sustainable palm oil, as well as its goal to reduce CO2 emissions:

Want to find out more?

RSPO Not without its Critics

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been the primary advocate for the cultivation of sustainable palm oil. Despite the organization’s efforts and progress some conservationists claim that the group is still not doing enough. In a recent article published by New Hope 360 – a sustainable marketing advocacy group – journalist Kelsey Blackwell referenced a number of RSPO certification loopholes and areas of ineffectiveness. The first and most daunting statistic that Blackwell points to is the fact that only 15% of palm the palm oil produced in Southeast Asia is shipped to the U.S. and Europe; the rest is consumed in Asian markets where sustainability is not a large issue. In addition, the RSPO program currently certifies palm oil that is not raised on what is considered “high-value conservation forest.” What is considered “high-value” is left open to debate within the countries producing palm oil. The article also points out that oil cultivated in areas that were deforested before 2005 can still be certified sustainable despite the potential damaging effects that these plantations may have on the surrounding ecosystems.
            The point here is not to demonize a relatively successful conservation program. The point behind these criticisms is that, while a great deal of work has been done, there is still great work to be done. Blackwell suggests additional standards that the RSPO could adopt to be even more effective than they already are. She states that certain loopholes could be addressed by introducing a biomass standard “The standard would require the maximum amount of gases released by plantations to be based on the forest's original biomass. Areas with dense, old growth trees or carbon-rich peat would rank higher on the biomass standard than new-growth forests.”

What can YOU do?

“Let us remember, always, that we are the consumers. By exercising free choice, by choosing what to buy, what not to buy, we have the power, collectively to change the ethics of the business of industry. We have the potential to exert immense power for good – we each carry it with us, in our purses, cheque books, and credit cards.”
  Jane Goodall, “A Reason for Hope”

I think this quote is very inspirational. By being aware what of you are purchasing you can make a difference in our environment. It will take a lot of time for our rain forests to be restored and for countries to stop the harvesting of palm oil but one by one we can make a difference! Just by deciding to not purchase items that contain palm oil you become one more person on a fight to win back our environment. 

Keep this in mind on your next shopping trip:

Palm Oil is also known as:
Sodium Laureth Sulphate (Can also be from coconut)
Sodium Lauryl Sulphates (can also be from ricinus oil)
Sodium dodecyl Sulphate (SDS or NaDS)
Palm Oil Kernal
Palm Oil in cosmetics:
Elaeis Guineensis
Glyceryl Stearate
Stearic Acid
Chemicals containing Palm Oil:
Steareth -2
Steareth -20
Sodium Lauryl Sulphate
Sodium lauryl sulfoacetate (coconut and/or palm)
Hydrated palm glycerides
Sodium isostearoyl lactylaye (derived from vegetable stearic acid)

Palm oil has many different names and you might not even know that you're purchasing it! Make sure you are familiar with the different words for palm oil so that you can stay away from it!!

A Battle so Large, Even Girl Scouts Have Joined the Fight

Five. That is the number of boxes of Girl Scout cookies that were given to, or bought for my household this year. Sadly, all five boxes were consumed before any of us even thought to look at the ingredients label. For my family, Girl Scout cookies are so widely anticipated throughout the year, that we wouldn’t dare risk reading what’s on the ingredient labels. Isn’t that what we all do with our favorite foods? What we don’t know won’t hurt us, right? Wrong.

As the destruction caused by creating and operating palm oil plantations has been brought to light, consumers are finding themselves checking the ingredients of their food labels a bit more carefully. What the majority are finding is disheartening. Nearly all our favorite snacks and household cleaning items are made with palm oil. Could it be, that consumers like you and I are keeping the palm oil industry in business? I think so.

Sure, palm oil is easily and quickly produced to keep up with the high demand that developed nations have created for it. But the damage that the palm oil industry has caused to plant, animal, and human life within the rainforest is devastating. As more and more rainforest is cut or burned to make room for the newest oil palm farming land, millions of plant, animal, and human lives are disrupted and, more often than not, destroyed. Orangutans have especially been affected by this rainforest destruction. Now, having made the endangered species list, they are seriously threatened with extinction before much longer.

When two Girl Scout teenagers started researching the endangerment of the orangutan species for a project that they were creating to earn their bronze Girl Scout metals, they found something that astounded them. Oil palm plantations had been contributing to the loss of orangutan life, and Girl Scout cookies had been contributing to the demand of the palm oil that was being produced at those very destructive plantations. They were devastated to learn that their cookie sales throughout the years had its own small part in destroying the rainforest and the life within it.

The girls wrote to the Girl Scouts headquarters to see if palm oil could be removed from all brands of their cookies or if they could be made with palm oil that had been sustainably produced. Sadly, their requests were denied. They claimed that palm oil is the only oil that will uphold the good shelf life of the cookies. Furthermore, they stated that it would be next to impossible to use sustainably produced palm oil because only about 6% of all palm oil being produced is done so sustainably. The girls have reached out to other groups and organizations for help, but realize that they are fighting an uphill battle. Both have stopped selling the cookies until they are palm oil free or contain sustainably grown palm oil. The devastation caused by oil palm plantations, is requiring even the Girl Scout troops to put up a fight. Sadly, it won’t be enough. If you interested in learning how you can help fight to end the destruction caused by palm oil plantations, visit:
Source for this article:

Palm Oil and its Effect On Native Life

Rainforest destruction is commonly associated with the death of animal life and as a major contributor to global warming or climate change. While it is all of these things, the devastation reaches further into human populations. Millions of people, living in or near areas of the rainforest that are being cleared in Indonesia and Malaysia for oil palm plantations, suffer many adverse health and psychological effects.

Hundreds of thousands of villagers and indigenous peoples live in or near the rainforest. For thousands of years they have tended the land and lived sustainably off its resources. However, with increased demand for the production of palm oil, these homes and habitats are being destroyed at rates faster than anyone can say, “palm oil.” Why? So that consumers in developed nations, like you and I, can buy cheap household items and food.

Natives to Indonesia and Malaysia aren’t just being forced out of their habitats; they are also being forced to suffer from contaminants that are a product of oil palm plantations. For starters, the pollution begins when a rainforest is set fire to clear it for oil palm plantations. The haze and fog from these fires have been estimated to have caused adverse health effects in at least 70 million people (Brown, Jacobson). To add to this staggering number, it has been reported that the amount of pollution accrued and dumped from palm oil plantations and factories every year is “equivalent to the domestic sewage produced by 20 million people” (Brown, Jacobson). This pollution and waste is dumped into rivers and other bodies of water where native habitants drink, bathe, and fish. In addition to this, those working at palm oil plantations and factories are being exposed to harmful chemicals whose damaging side effects include ulcers, nosebleeds, eye infections, and nail loss.

So the next time you munch on Oreos or Kit Kats, or use your favorite cleansing soap that contains palm oil, think of those who may have lost their homes where their ancestors before them lived for thousands of years. Think of the injury, sickness, and adverse psychological affects that oil palm plantations and mills have caused them to suffer. You can help put an end to this type of life that is forced upon the natives of Indonesia and Malaysia; start by not buying products with palm oil in them. Sustainable palm oil production is possible. Until sustainable production begins to happen, boycott products with palm oil in them. To find out more on this issue, visit

Source for this article:

When Evil Oil Like Creatures Take Over the World

FernGully: The Last Rainforest is a favorite childhood movie of mine. I remember the first time watching that movie, my six year old self feeling such an enormous amount of rage and sadness with the very idea of such a beautiful, magical, species of fairies being destroyed so that someone could make money. Their once sacred homes were being invaded and destroyed by humans who had unleashed Hexxus-“an evil oil-like creature who, was turned into a tree when he tried to unleash chaos in FernGully” ( (Sound familiar?) Now, when I learn of real rainforest destruction taking its toll on animal life, my 24 year old self still suffers that same rage and sadness that I felt when watching FernGully 18 years ago. Only now, the rage and sadness don’t go away when I turn the television off; it’s constantly felt. Sure, rainforest deforestation isn’t killing off a magical species of fairies, but it is in fact killing off beautiful mammal species that are irreplaceable. Although an “evil oil-like” creature isn’t responsible for this destruction, another oil product is: palm oil.

Sumatran tigers and rhinoceros, Asian elephants, and the Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans are only just a few of the animals that are affected by deforestation of the rainforest. For years now, areas in Malaysia and Indonesia have been destroying thousands of square miles of vital rainforest to create fertile agriculture lands for oil palm plantations. With the rainforest being accounted for housing nearly 70% of earth’s species, one can only begin to imagine just how many animals are displaced with every square mile of rainforest that is destroyed.

Habit destruction isn’t the only thing destroying the animals of the rainforest. Fire and human hunters also add to the tragic mix. Sadly, the quickest and most fertile way to create land for oil palms is to set fire to the rainforest. Often times, the burns are uncontrollable and end up destroying more rainforest than originally intended. Regardless of how much rainforest is burned, animals and plants still die. Imagine how many animals have burned to death just because of the demand for palm oil in developed nations. It’s truly an unsettling thought.
In addition to habitat displacement and fire, animals that are driven from their homes are often found pushing the boundaries of human/animal interaction. Because they are typically starving and confused, elephants, tigers and orangutans are continuously crossing into human thresholds. Orangutans frequently raid the very oil palms that displaced them to eat the fruit of its trees. Farmers and plantation owners are legally permitted to kill these endangered species if they “trespass” onto their oil palm plantation. Furthermore, tigers and elephants have been reported as attacking humans, sometimes even in well developed areas. These behaviors are extremely rare and are believed to be solely the product of their habit destruction.

Putting an end to rainforest destruction won’t be as easy as it was for the fairies in FernGully. However, if enough of us work together, we too can conquer the evil doers, and as cliché as it may sound, save the rainforest. If you would like to learn more about rainforest deforestation for the palm oil industry and what you can do to help, follow this link: (

Source used for this article:

The Rainforest Doesn’t Have a Price Tag

Nearly everyone at one point or another, has heard of rainforest deforestation. But, how many people actually know what the rainforest is being deforested for? The answer: palm oil. Palm oil has become one of the world’s most frequently used oils and can be found in many common household products. Palm oil is derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, which happens to grow best in warm, wet climates. Where better a warm, wet climate than the rainforest?

To date, in Indonesia and Malaysia, tens of thousands of square miles of rich, rainforest ecosystems have been destroyed to clear areas for oil palm plantations. All the while, tens of thousands of square miles of unused agricultural lands remain untouched. You may be wondering why already cleared, unused land is left untouched, while thriving, lush, rainforests are destroyed for oil palm plantations. The answer: Revamping the unused land is much more costly (financially) than simply destroying entire rainforest ecosystems. In addition to this, in clearing parts of the rainforest, excessive amounts of money can be made by selling the timber that is clear cut. One would think that, with palm oil being the billion dollar industry that it is, money could be spared to reestablish unused land rather than clearing the vital rainforests. Sadly, those companies owning the majority of oil palm plantations think that saving a dime and making a profit is much more important than protecting the rainforest. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Rainforests are important! The rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia alone, are the home to roughly 500 million indigenous peoples who depend on it for shelter and food. In addition to the human life that relies on the rainforest is the plant and animal life. It is estimated that 70% of the world’s plant and animal species live in the rainforest. But, it isn’t just about the life of those the rainforest shelters; it’s about its host as well. Rainforests also serve a great purpose in controlling our global climate. They recycle carbon rich air and replace it with clean oxygen. Furthermore, the rainforests prevent flooding by absorbing the excessive rainfall typical to Indonesia and Malaysia.

The rainforest is a vital part of our world’s ecosystems and is worth more than any dollar that could be earned through the profit of palm oil sale. It’s time that the destruction of the rainforest is stopped! To learn more about palm oil and rainforest deforestation or to find out how you can help end rainforest deforestation, visit: (

Source used for this article:

The Face of Exploitation

One argument that proponents of aggressive production of palm-oil, especially in Asian countries make, is that the economic development is a beneficial because it provides employment and wealth for the local population. This could not be further from the truth as the following, personal accounts of Fredi and Volario show.

Ashley Schaeffer, an environmental and animal rights activist, met with Fredi and Volario and tells a horrific account of how workers on palm-oil plantations are treated. Even though Fredi and Volario live in different places, their stories play out very similarly. Both followed the promise of good pay and easy work and left their hometown to work for “PT 198”, a subcontractor of a big Malaysian palm-oil producer.

Upon arrival, they were assigned the task of spraying the plantations with toxic chemicals. They were neither given protection for their hands nor lungs says Schaeffer. After working hours, the 14 and 21 year old were forced inside a camp with no sanitary installations where they would spend the night among other plantation workers. After months of slave labor (they did not get paid), Fredi and Volario fled the plantation.

Sometimes it is important to give these big controversies, like the palm oil issue a face. It is far too easy to be ignorant. Fredi and Volario show, that the exploitation is very real and affects the lives of human beings just like you and me.

Fredi and Volaria telling their story

Palm Oil is Destroying Malaysia’s Peatswamp Forests Faster than Ever

According to new figures from Wetlands International and Sarvision, "An increasing part of Malaysia’s palm oil is produced at the account of huge areas of tropical peatswamp forests....and may lead to the complete loss of these vast, unique forests by the end of this decade." Further statistics in the article say that palm oil is used in 50% of all consumer goods and Malaysia takes care of 45% of that production.

The problems
Growing plantations on peatlands leads to deforestation, organic soil degradation, loss of unique species (see map), and increased CO2 emissions.

Call for Action
  • Ban palm oil production on peatlands
  • Halt any further conversion of natural areas for palm oil crops
  • End incentives for EU biofuels
  • Opt for sustainable palm oil -- focus on the millions of degraded hectares of land (available in SE Asia)

View the full story at


The Rainforest Action Network (RAN) posted an article about the current pressures focused on Cargill in the USA (discussed further in a previous post), to stop their dirty and dangerous practices of developing oil palm plantations in the rich tropical rainforests of Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea.

China has recently become the most dominant consumer nation of oil palm. Their climate is too cold and dry to produce oil palm, so they have turned to Indonesia to meet their demands for cheap cooking oil and processed foods. China is already working with one of Malaysia's bigger producers, Sime Sarby, whose CEO expects the demand from China to increase an astounding 100% over the next decade.

The main points of the article are to:

  • Encourage Cargill to adopt a global forest policy
  • Get Chinese producers and consumers on-board with sustainable palm oil practices ASAP
  • Encourage new policy and advocacy strategies (to push China's oil palm lobbying towards responsible oil palm growing development to meet their growing demand for oil palm products).

Click below for the full story:

Reduce Poverty for Sustainable Palm Oil

Palm oil is a truly beneficial resource, and all of its potential has yet to be seen. But, as with all resources in demand, those who are in need will take advantage of any opportunity to provide resources if it means raising them out of poverty. In light of this, it seems the problem with making palm oil sustainable has its root in improving the livelihood of poor farmers.

Palm oil is cheap to produce, and a crop’s turnaround time is relatively low. Farmers can make a lot of money from growing oil palms, but the easiest way to do it is to eliminate sections of protected land to establish a place to grow it. Indonesians already occupy the land that many progressive nations seek to protect. Therefore, if a company offers to pay a local farmer to cultivate a section of rainforest the farmer is likely to do it. It is self- preservation over environmental preservation. One can’t argue the value of orangutans to a man trying to feed his children.

When more developed countries criticize the practices of palm oil producers, they do fail to recognize the reasons for the practices. This is not blatant disregard for valuable land. It is an all out attempt on a nationwide and local level to raise the wealth and living standard of struggling nations. Palm oil grows best in regions of the world that tend to have the highest poverty levels. We cannot put the blame on this product. If we remove palm oil, opportunists will grow something else. Poverty must be addressed first if there is to be any lasting change with regard to protecting rain forests.

Read the articles:

A True Look at Palm Oil Deforestation

Often on this blog, the discussion often turns to palm growers and the clear cutting, the deforestation, and the destruction of ecosystems that some palm producers resort to in order to grow the plants. And while a picture speaks a thousand words, sometimes video can be more compelling.

Below is a video found on YouTube which shows just how land is cleared to make way for palm plants.

It is hard to imagine, isn't it? Hundreds and thousands of acres cleared out with chain saws and bulldozers and with fire. All to make room for palm so we may have palm oil. In a previous post, the use of palm as a form of  bio fuel was discussed. One issue made was that the use of palm oil as biodiesel could drive up demand to a point where sustainability is no longer a requirement or even desired. Imagine the destruction in the video multiplied by 10. By 20. By 100. By 1000. And imagine if the desire for palm grows even more among food producers, chemical companies, and more. The landscape of countries such as Malaysia, Columbia, and Indonesia will change dramatically.

Keep in mind, these tactics are not the way ALL palm growers take. There are farmers and producers who produce palm in a sustainable way without destroying forests or landscapes. Still, the thought of lush, green forests filled with wildlife being swept away is something to consider next time you buy a product with palm oil in it.

Remember to always look for the GreenPalm sustainability seal on products. Its the least you can do to help show the companies and growers of the world you care about sustainability and eco-friendly practices when it comes to palm and palm oil.

Want to Avoid Palm Oil?

7 Tips for Avoiding Palm Oil

Here’s some great ways you can increase your awareness of and avoid purchasing products with Palm Oil:
  1. Remember that ‘vegetable oil’ is the most common name use to hide palm oil. This is especially true for Asian products or products which have been produced in Asia.
  2. The majority of pre-packed snack foods produced by large companies generally contain palm oil.
  3. If saturated fat content is over 40% of a product’s total fat content, palm oil is most likely involved.
  4. Palm oil is labeled under many names (see link for complete list), and nearly all of those with the word “palm” refer to palm oil.
  5. Most home-brand/no-name pastry/confectionery  products contain palm oil.
  6. You can always look a product up online or call the company if you are not sure whether or not it contains palm oil.
  7. Products which contain alternative vegetable oils are another way to avoid palm oil. Do your research!
For more information, including photo tutorials for how to look for palm oil, visit:


Just what is GreenPalm?
You’ve probably seen it mentioned in previous posts, but I’m sure you’re wondering just what exactly this initiative is. 

GreenPalm was an idea developed by AarhusKarlshamn UK Ltd (AAK) and it became incorporated in November, 2006. The program aims for the following (from the official website): to promote certified sustainable palm oil, to prevent the destruction of the rainforests, and to support the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). 

In order to accomplish this, GreenPalm bypasses the physical supply chain of palm oil completely, which would otherwise result in purchasers of palm oil unable to identify where their product comes from. This process is possible, though it incurs additional costs.  
Here’s how it works: 

                “RSPO certified palm oil producers are invited to register a quantity of their output with the GreenPalm programme. They are awarded one GreenPalm certificate for each tonne of palm oil which has been sustainably produced. They can then put those certificates up for sale here on the GreenPalm web based trading platform.” (

Manufactures and retailers are then given the ability to bid for and buy the GreenPalm certificates online. This process allows businesses to claim that they are supporters of the sustainable production of palm oil.

So now, as a consumer, whenever you see the GreenPalm logo on a product, you have the knowledge that it was manufactured in more environmentally friendly means, especially since GreenPalm offers a financial premium to producers who are able to prove they are responsible—both environmentally and socially.

Even though this may sound like a great solution to many of the problems produced by the production of palm oil, GreenPalm is still an ongoing mission which needs your help! Some of the ways you can make a difference are simple, such as buying products with the GreenPalm logo or Tweeting your support of the GreenPalm program. A few seconds of your time could change the lives of many people, and help save the rainforests endangered by palm oil production! 

For more information, please visit:

Palm oil deal aims to save forests and carbon

One of the biggest palm oil producers Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) has partnered with international environmental group The Forest Trust (TFT) in an aim to save forest lands that store a good amount of carbon. The said partnership goes beyond the existing policies set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), whereby clearing up of forests to give way to palm oil plantations has been prohibited and that permit to undertake such measures is required from local inhabitants. In fact, under the deal, GAR will not plant on peat lands or clear forests where there are a lot of carbon-rich trees. This is TFT and GAR’s way of taking the lead in the controversial issue on palm oil plantations destroying lush forests and other wildlife. Before this agreement, TFT has in fact partnered with food-company giant Nestle earlier this year to guarantee that palm oil produce is harnessed without any tinge of deforestation.

Furthermore, this move of GAR is seen as a move to battle the numerous criticisms it has received from environmental groups being the second largest producer of palm oil in the world. To change its bad reputation, GAR now vows to play its part in conserving forests in Indonesia and likewise doing its share in addressing the country’s need for development primarily in terms of employment and shareholder value. Moreover, while the RSPO’s main concern has always been on companies’ compliance, GAR and TFT guarantees that they will live up to their promises. The environmental group Greenpeace lauded the said deal, which they claim will trickle down to other players in the industry. Instead of looking into tapping new lands to be converted to palm oil plantations, the agreement focuses on boosting productivity, which the group claimed to address the main issue at hand. 

Asian palm oil: limited supply

The supply of land for palm oil plantations is not far from decreasing. With the 25-year lifecycle of the oil palm, top producers Malaysia and Indonesia have been running out of land to accommodate the demand for the said oil. According to analyst Ken Arieff Wong, at present there are only nine years left before such lands completely vanished. In particular, Malaysia could run out of land by 2020 while Indonesia by 2022. This shortage is brought about by the implementation of stricter policies on land expansion, which resulted from efforts to stop converting forests into palm oil plantations and the call to preserve the natural habitats of some endangered species. Because of all these, palm oil giants Sime Darby, Olam International, and Wilmar International are scouting for other lands they can utilize in equatorial Africa. This is most likely what the giants will turn to in order to expand their land banks even if chances of political and social instability are quite high in the said region. As a result of the deficiency, prices will definitely shoot up since the demand is greater than the supply.

Because of this situation, palm oil companies have since been enjoying steady growth with Indonesia’s biggest producer Golden Agri-Resources listing 147 percent increase in net profit. This surge in revenue came in despite boycott from big companies such as Unilever, Nestle, and Kraft Foods. Similarly, world’s biggest listed palm oil producer Sime Darby revealed a 104 percent increase in second-quarter profit. All these have been brought about by the great demand for edible oils. Thus, as the deadline for Southeast Asian lands comes near, the need to turn to other lands where palm tree will grow is apparent for these companies. Hence, it has been reported that Sime Darby has acquired 300,000 ha in Cameroon and 220,000 ha in Liberia. Other palm oil companies have also obtained their respective shares in other parts of Africa.

B5 - the new palm bio diesel

The use of palm oil as a biofuel is underway in Malaysia. Putrajaya, south of Kuala Lumpur, is home to the first of what is expected to be many more petrol stations all over the country featuring the new biodiesel fuel. Known as B5 biodiesel, this petrol is described as "a blend of 95 percent diesel derived from petroleum and five percent biodiesel." The fuel has been tested since 2009 in diesel vehicles with no adverse effects, which has lead the way for the biodiesel to be mass produced. The only downside to this biodiesel is that it is more expensive to produce and is therefore more expensive to purchase, although the extra cost is absorbed by the government. 

The B5 is marketed as a more ecofriendly, renewable form of fuel, as opposed to 100% petroleum based fuels. This makes it a highly enticing idea for companies and governments looking for relief from rising crude oil prices and global crude oil demand.

But is it worth it?

Palm oil demand is already rising, almost as much as crude oil. Previous blogs here on Ecomerge have shown how many companies use palm oil in production in some way or another. If the demand for palm oil as a fuel source grows, the supply will have to expand to do so. And that means more plantations. More plantations means more land will have to be cleared where forests and natural ecosystems thrive.

Already, there are palm growers who are unscrupulously growing palm. They clearcut forests illegally, encroach on protected lands, and violate other laws, placing them in the category of "unsustainable" as well as criminal in some cases. 

However, Malaysian Palm Oil Board Director General Datuk Dr. Choo Yuen May claims that this form of bio-fuel is "more environmentally friendly" than regular petroleum diesel. Greenpeace, however, disagrees. Greenpeace issued a statement back on 2007 saying: "Greenpeace is not against palm oil or the palm oil industry.... We are against the destruction of rainforests and the massive climate pollution that has resulted from the reckless expansion of palm plantations."

Though Malaysian officials claim no clear-cutting of Malaysian forests has occurred in over a decade, thats almost hard to believe, considering the value of the plant and the growing use of the oil. As shown in the image to the right, palm plantations seem to require a great amount of space to grow the plants. This puts more pressure on growers to grow more palm even faster and in higher volumes. And with the growing pressure, there is a higher possibility of more unscrupulous actions by palm producers that will harm the environment. 

It remains to be seen how the use of palm oil as a bio fuel will effect the environment as well as the economy in the long-run. For now, palm oil as a bio fuel is a viable resource as a way to help quench the thirst for oil humans have. But we must keep in mind the possible ramifications of the widespread use of palm oil as a bio fuel.



Chairman Speech at the 12th AGM of MPOA [Malaysia Palm Oil Association]
During this speech the chairman of the MPOA said, "On the RSPO front, we continue to face many hurdles. The off-take of certified [sustainable] palm oil (CSPO) has not been encouraging and premiums are dwindling. During the 7th General Assembly of the RSPO, MPOA together with other associations raised three (3) resolutions, (a) To restructure the Governing Body, (b) To formalize the procedures to amend the Principles and Criteria (c) To promote the procurement and use of RSPO certified palm oil. The other issue being raised by RSPO, the EU and the US relates to carbon emission by the industry. Palm oil has to reduce its carbon intensity levels in order to compete with other oilseeds. In addition, oil palm cultivation is not allowed to use the available carbon stock from forests and peat-lands, thus preventing the expansion of the oil palm industry completely."

Malaysian Palm Oil Council [MPOC] Launches Online Website to Counter NGO Propaganda

In March of this year (2011), the MPOC launched "The Oil Palm" website to share the truth about palm oil and its role in society and for a healthy planet. CEO Tan Sri Datuk Dr Yusof Basiron said, “The Malaysian palm oil industry employs more than 570,000 people, more than 40 percent of which are small farmers. The industry is a leader in protecting the environment. Malaysia has set aside over 50 percent of its land for primary forest conservation and uses only 23 percent of land for agriculture. Yet these positive contributions to society often go unnoticed, or worse, denigrated by environmental NGOs. The Oil Palm website will help ensure their campaign of misinformation does not go unchallenged.”

The Malaysian Government has been on board with the RSPO since 2008!

An article from PalmOilHQ (from 2008) states that, "The [Malaysian] government will allocate RM50 million to provide a Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Fund to support community programmes and conservation programmes."

Countries and companies are taking action to support sustainable palm oil practices. It is our responsibility, as consumers, to keep that momentum going and make smarter purchases. Keep looking for sustainable palm oil products and you will be doing your part. Spread the word and you will be contributing more. Pressure big companies to switch to sustainable palm oil sources - and you are going above and beyond. You can make a difference!

Keep up to date on the latest of what
Malaysia is doing by visiting the sites for the MPOA & MPOC:

Is Palm Oil The Reason For CO2 Emissions?

For many years, the plantation of palm oil has been associated with all kinds of negative consequences such as deforestation and CO2 emissions. The latter consequence of palm oil plantation is an important matter, as CO2 is one of those greenhouse gases that accelerate the Greenhouse Effect. As a result, it is very important to determine just what it is that makes planting palm oil so unsustainable. Interestingly, the article "Palm oil is a net source of CO2 emissions when produced on peatlands" dedicates itself to explaining how it is palm oil can cause CO2 emissions. through this article, we learn that it isn't plantation of palm oil itself that is cause for worry, but rather the peat-lands that need to go through a process of drainage, degradation, and conversion. As the article states, "Performing life cycle analysis of land use change in tropical peatlands, Dr. Susan Page (University of Leicester) and colleagues[...]found that drained, degraded, and converted peatlands are substantial net sources — not net sinks — of carbon dioxide (CO2)." Thus, as the article points out, it is not necessarily palm oil plantation that needs to be stopped, but rather the deforestation of peat-lands. This article helps to have some insight into the real reason behind the association that has been made between CO2 emissions and palm oil. Reading this article helps viewing palm oil in a different light because the implications of these findings relieve palm oil of accusations of being sources of CO2 emissions. I hope that reading this article will contribute to a better understanding of this issue.

Many benefits of palm oil

An interesting aspect of the discussion about palm oil is that, despite the fact that there is a hot argument on whether or not palm oil is sustainable, the truth is, it is used in so many products, not just foods, that one would wonder why there is a debate when palm oil is consumed on a daily basis. In fact, palm oil is featured in products such as lotions, so, even without eating it, we still enter into contact with it more than just a couple of times a week. As such, whether it is a good thing or not should not matter as much as it does. However, there are many reasons to believe that palm oil is sustainable oil. The American Palm Oil Council (APOC) is an organization that dedicates itself to advocating palm oil as a healthy and sustainable choice. Their website features a list of positive aspects of palm oil, and, upon closer analysis, we see that these benefits are actually the reason why this oil is considered "multi-purpose." Some of the advantages of palm oil listed on the website include the fact that it is rich in anti-oxidants, odorless and tasteless, which makes it convenient for cooking purposes, and most compelling is the fact that, based on studies undertaken on animals, it may have the capability to inhibit certain types of cancer. Such a discovery is extremely interesting, and could reveal groundbreaking if researches are pushed further and makes concrete the hopes that are being put in that oil.


IOI and Unsustainable Palm

While several companies and organizations have been accelerating efforts to produce or use sustainable palm oil, one palm oil producer has not. IOI Corporation, one of the two leading palm oil producers in Malaysia, has recently "failed to comply with the terms set by the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) Grievance Panel last month" according to Malaysiakini. Though this is a failure by the company, the RSPO granted IOI a 21-day extension in order to comply with the terms.

What does this mean? It means that the IOI Corp can continue to sell and market their palm oil as sustainable and green to those who buy from them, even though they violated rules about green and sustainable production.

There are a number of factors within this story that makes it so troubling. First is that IOI has not issued any sort of apology or statement of promise to reverse course and to comply with the RSPO rules. They seem to appreciate the extra time they are receiving, as described in an article by Bloomberg news (Click here for a link to the full story), but other than "working 'closely' with an industry group on a roadmap" to address the issues they face, IOI has not seemed to interested in saving face.

This means they seem to think they did nothing wrong, even though there are reports and statements to the contrary.

IOI is accused of illegal encroachment on protected forest lands, possibly clear-cutting up to 1,000 hectares of protected forests. Also, in the village of Long Teran Kanan (located in Sarawak, Malaysia), the community has faced intimidation from IOI. Villagers have been hit with  police reports filed by IOI against the people who try to reclaim their land, which IOI is accused of taking. And has IOI apologized? No. They seem to want to end this litigation and get their certification as being "green" in order to keep their profit margins going strong as ever.

It seems that, in all likelihood, IOI is not going to become a true sustainable producer of palm oil. Their dirty tactics and lack of concern for not only general law, but the near total disregard for the environment have made it clear. And until the RSPO and other organizations step in and take action, this will not change. The RSPO needs to revoke their sustainable seal of approval and make sure that IOI does not get it until they prove they are truly sustainable.

But that alone will not solve this issue. The true source of IOI's power is in the money. The money they get from palm oil production. Unless companies refuse to purchase from IOI Corp as long as they are either no longer certified as sustainable or continue their destructive actions, IOI and other producers like them will continue their ways. However, considering the slow progression of companies making the switch from unsustainable to sustainable palm, this strategy will take time. That is, if it ever occurs.

Still, this brings to light how some palm oil producers work and why people and product manufacturers need to take a closer look at where they get their palm oil and just how truly sustainable and green the raw material sources are.

Sources and More information: