Little Seed, Big Problem | Seventh Generation
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Little Seed, Big Problem

Author: Christopher Miller

OrangutanAs we have mentioned in previous blog posts, Seventh Generation has launched a major initiative around palm oil. As you know, the massive expanse in palm oil production has caused vast tracts of tropical rainforest to be slashed and burned to make way for massive new palm oil plantations. Seventh Generation uses oil from the seed of the palm fruit, called palm kernel oil, to power our all natural plant derived cleaning agents. We have pledged that by the end of 2012, we will only source certified sustainable palm kernel oil for all of our products.

But Seventh Generation can't transform the palm oil industry alone. Like ourselves, Whole Foods Market has prioritized the issue of palm oil, and has made a commitment to ensure that only certified sustainable palm oil is used in their private label brands across all Whole Foods Markers from coast to coast. Our actions, together with Whole Foods Market, mark a first for U.S. companies, and we are both committed to ensuring that the devastation to tropical rainforests from palm oil production stops.

photo: stolte-sawa


Mizz Mo picture
Mizz Mo
Do you use Cargill as a source for Palm Oil? If not, who do you use? We believe transparency is the beginning of change. Thank you, Mizz Mo / US
Christopher Miller picture
Christopher Miller
Petra: Thanks for taking the time to stop by the website and leave a comment on our sustainable palm oil initiative. I wish I could tell you this was really easy for us, but I am afraid it is not as simple as you would think. First, there are a lot of reasons why palm kernel oil is good, both in general terms, and specifically for use in our products. We use a derivative made from palm kernel oil in our surfactant, the natural plant based cleaning agent, which powers many of our products. We believe that using plant based surfactant are superior from a sustainability point of view to petroleum based surfactants which most of our conventional competitors use. Palm can be grown fairly efficiently, and when grown properly, can lead to a much higher yield per acre than any other plant based oils, like soy or coconut. It can also be grown with fewer pesticides than these other plant based oils. However, as you know, there are real sustainability issues associated with current production of palm oil, and we are committed to being part of the solution. Secondly, we don't actually source palm kernel oil, we source surfactants from suppliers that use a palm kernel oil derivative as its active ingredient, so the palm based oil is several steps down our supply chain, making it a bit more complicated to solve. We have begun to engage our surfactant suppliers, and we believe we will be able to work with them to develop a traceable and sustainable supply of palm kernel oil by 2012. While we hope that we can move faster, we wanted to set a goal that is both ambitious, but achievable. We believe the 2012 goal is just that. I think you will find our goal is more aggressive than any of our competitors, either natural or conventional. As you know, there are some small users of palm oil that have been able to replace the ingredient with something else. Our friends at Lush Cosmetics for example have completely ended their use of palm oil and substituted coconut oil. While we believe this is a great solution for our friends at Lush, we don't believe this is the right path for Seventh Generation. We use a much higher volume of palm based oil than does Lush, and while coconut does not currently have the kind of sustainability issues associated with palm, that is only because palm production is so much larger, not because coconut is less benign. We will move as aggressively as possible to achieve a traceable and certified sustainable palm kernel oil based surfactant supply chain, and in the mean time, we will continue to pay a premium for every metric ton of palm kernel oil we use to support the development of that sustainable supply chain. In terms of the RSPO, you are right, there are number of environmental groups that have identified serious issues. Having said that, I think you will find that all of the important environmental groups believe that the RSPO and its transparent, multi-stakeholder process of certification, is the right approach. It needs to be supported and strengthened. We are members of the RSPO, and we will continue to work with NGO partners like the Rainforest Action Network, Greenpeace, and others to ensure that RSPO lives up to its promise to make the industry more sustainable. I hope you will tune in to our live webcast on sustainable palm oil, this Thursday evening from 7.00pm to 8.30pm. We hope it will be an informative event, that both paints the picture of the scale of the problem and highlights how together we can be a part of the solution. You can read some of the highlights of palm oil action plan here: Thanks again for taking the time to be in touch, and please continue to let us know your thoughts. Chris Miller Corporate Consciousness
Petra Borrmann picture
Petra Borrmann
Hello, Is is that difficult to source from certified oil palm plantations, that you need another 2 years to change the logistics? I heard the Round Table for sustainable palm oil production is basically a joke and doesn´t work, at least not in a way that it protects the rainforests. Are there other ways of certifications that work better or is this the one you are planning to join? And my last question: Wouldn´t it be better to look for an alternative to palm oil? Thank you Petra from Berlin/ Germany