Environmental Effects of RSPO Palm

Environmental Effects of RSPO Palm

Oct 24, 2023

Palm oil is a contentious substance.

It is highly scrutinized due to its cultivation in tropical peat forests in Indonesia and Malaysia, which leads to a deforestation of a vital ecosystem and extraordinary carbon-sink. On the other hand, Palm Oil is an extremely efficient oil crop; with yields an order of magnitude greater than alternative oil crops, such as rapeseed or olive.

Whether palm oil is good or bad is an open question then. What is certain however, is that it is in everything. There are over 200 cosmetic ingredients that use Palm Oil as a raw material. Few of these ingredients are going to change any time soon, and only a fraction of those ingredients even have the word palm in them.

Some organizations have stepped into the fray to attempt to provide some stability and eco-mindedness to the cultivation of this crop.

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is a voluntary, non-profit organization that promotes sustainable cultivation of Palm Oil. The RSPO has it’s own litany of accusations of abuse and hypocrisy, but there are also studies suggesting beneficial effects from having the RSPO label and standard applied to palm cultivation.

Show me the data

Cosmetic ingredients can vary a lot in their impact depending on their chemical function in a product. They can also vary dramatically according to their raw material source.

We have conducted a study on four commonly palm derived cosmetic ingredients to determine the effects on various environmental impact categories.

The ingredients are:

  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine

  • Glycerin

  • Sodium Palmate

  • Stearic Acid

The data show a large improvement in the climate change impact category for RSPO sourced palm ingredients. Other factors are mixed, with non-RSPO palm being better on average for Eutrophication measures and resource use.

The average ratio of environmental impact for RSPO vs non-RSPO derived ingredients, based on the four chemicals studied.

The important thing to consider for cosmetic ingredient suppliers and manufacturers, is that an ingredient is not just an ingredient. Each chemical has an entire story to tell, and the origin of a molecule of Glycerin, for example, can be extremely important to determining the overall carbon impact.

Do you where your Glycerin is coming from? Even if you know it is palm derived, can you determine if it is RSPO?

It might make a big difference in your overall environmental impact.

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