In our ongoing quest to make our products the most sustainable and natural cleaning products available, we are continually working up and down our supply chain to ensure that the ingredients in every bottle of Seventh Generation are not just less bad for people and the planet, but are truly good.
That’s why we are pleased to be the first consumer packaged goods company in North America to tackle the issue of destructive palm oil production and its effect on tropical rainforests. Seventh Generation is now the first company in our industry to purchase sustainable palm kernel oil production credits to cover our company’s use across our entire cleaning product portfolio. We are paying a premium to producers of sustainable palm in order to support their work and to expand the market for greener palm oil production. The purchase of sustainable palm kernel oil credits is only the first step in a broader strategy that will culminate in sourcing a segregated supply of palm kernel oil for our exclusive product use. Currently, the infrastructure needed to supply Seventh Generation with adequate levels of sustainable palm oil simply does not exist, so we have purchased credits as an interim measure while we work diligently to achieve our sustainable sourcing goal.
So, what is palm oil? And why should I care? And what does palm oil have to do with cleaning products? Well, the little-known truth is that more than 50% of the products on your local grocery store shelf contain palm oil. In fact, most cleaning products use palm kernel oil in the production of surfactants. Surfactants are the active ingredient in many cleaning products; they are used in Seventh Generation laundry detergents, hand dishwashing liquid and spray cleaners.
The ugly side of growing palm is that, in order to make way for large-scale plantations, vast tracks of old growth rainforest in places like Indonesia and Malaysia have been clear cut. As the global demand for palm oil skyrocketed over the last 20 years (with an almost six fold increase in production), deforestation has continued on an epic scale. It’s a ticking environmental time bomb.
Scientists refer to tropical forests as the lungs of our planet. We pump out ever increasing quantities of CO2 -- the most prevalent global warming causing greenhouse gas -- and our tropical forests act like giant planet scrubbers, sucking C02 out of the atmosphere and locking it away deep inside the forests. As more and more rainforests are clearcut to make room for palm oil plantations, the deforestation releases vast quantities of CO2 that have been locked away in the forests for centuries, significantly adding to the growing global warming threat. Indonesia (about 1/5 the size of the US or China) has now become the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind only the United States and China. Indonesia’s place as one of the top three greenhouse gas emitters on the planet is driven exclusively by deforestation, not industrialization (which drives emissions in China and the United States). The problem has become so acute that 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from deforestation, more than all emissions from the transportation sector.
In addition to being a climate change time bomb, tropical deforestation also deprives some of the world’s most endangered species (such as orangutans, elephants, and tigers) of their key habitats. As habitats are lost to palm oil production and without immediate intervention, these species face almost certain extinction. Without a change in forest practices in Indonesia and Malaysia, it is likely that orangutans will disappear in the next five years.
By supporting sustainable palm oil production, we can change all of this. We can stop the rapid conversion of tropical rainforest and peatlands to palm oil plantations. We can ensure that the critical habitat for some of the world’s most threatened species remain in tact, and we can take part in ensuring that the indigenous people of the rainforest are not driven from their land.
Please stay in touch for more about how you can join us in leading the effort to protect tropical rainforests and their inhabitants, while helping to slow global climate change. Together, we can be a catalyst for the change we want to see in the world, helping to protect our planet for the next seven generations and beyond.