Seventh Generation Takes the Lead in Sustainable Palm Oil Credits | Seventh Generation
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Seventh Generation Takes the Lead in Sustainable Palm Oil Credits

Author: the Inkslinger

OrangutanIn 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.

photo: stolte-sawa

Comments picture
I posted the initial comment on this article. Since then I have visited the RSPO website to learn what RSPO certification means. From the standpoint of the NGO's it was a gimmick or political move to get Palm Producers to the table. The website does not outline how to achieve certification, how it monitors certification, punishers violators, or how it protect flora and fauna. It also does not say Producers who have previously clear cut rainforest and killed wildlife are not allowed to attain certifiaction. I have been pasted to this issure for over 2 months now Palm Oil Production in Indonesia and Malaysia is not sustainable. To begin with Palm Trees are an invasive species to the region. The governments of Malaysia and Indonesia are corrupt in broad daylight and do not enforce laws to protect forests and wildlife. Buying sustainable credits or RSPO only provides more working capital to the Palm Oil sector and thus perpectuates the cycle of destruction. Any company that thinks growing and invasive species and then shipping it around the world to promote sustainability and environmental resonsibility is Green Washing their products. If you want to really learn about Palm Oil read the Jakarta Globe to see how wildlife and rainforest and corruption is destroying earth. I will no longer buy Seventh Generation products. I suppose if you planted it in its native regions with fair trade labor and planning to not effect wildlife but rather protect their home territory I would change my mind. picture
This is great but it might just be "Green Washing"....Unfortunately, RSPO is just a trendy label that does not protect forests, Orangutans, animals, or the indigenous people of the area from a corrupt government and corporate greed. I really enjoy 7th Generation products and thought I was making a difference. But the truth about RSPO, Indonesia, and corporations is that this is to make people think they are buying responsibly to save animals and they are not. Follow my link to see the fraud: If 7th Generation wants to save wildlife from Palm Oil here is my suggestion. Organize with all the corporations in the US, Canada, and Europe. Tell Indonesia and Malaysia that habit illegally developed needs to be restored at the cost to the Palm Oil industry, remaining habitat needs to be protected with laws enforced, and laws being violated against wildlife need to be enforced. If they do not comply immediately you need to pull your business out of the country asap!!! Your products are pushing these forest and animals to need to do a lot more if you want to make a difference.
Seventh Generation VT picture
Seventh Generation VT
Amberalex picture
I have been eliminating palm oil a much as possible from my lifestyle. I was shocked and disturbed to hear that Seventh Generation uses ANY palm oil. I do not believe there truly is a "sustainable palm oil". As another reader commented: Why do you HAVE to use Palm oil in your products? I'm looking for more drastic responses to issues like the Palm Oil issue from companies that consider and market themselves as "Green" Why on earth is using ANY palm oil necessary in CLEANING products? Time to step up. I'm willing to pay more for our earth. Your company needs to step up.
jmstanley picture
I am very interested in learning what products I should avoid since you had said that 50% of products on the grocery shelves contain palm oil. Do they list it as an ingredient? I thought the article was interesting and it made me want to make some changes. But, it would have been beneficial if you listed some ideas on how. Thanks so much!
shaleyd picture
I make candles and only use soy or palm waxes because they are alleged to be the "eco-friendly" alternatives to paraffin wax. Now, I'm reading that palm oil is not so eco-friendly??? How can I make sure that the palm wax I buy is not tearing up the rainforest?
kookoopuffs picture
I applaud you for your efforts and explanations. it goes a long way to alleviate some of our concerns as consumers. in doing some preliminary reading, is it true that africa is the current frontier in sustainable segregated palm plantations? is that a strong possibility for purchasing the oil responsibly? and how likely will it be possible in the immediate or near future for seventh generation if so? thanks again kkp
vdehooghe picture
Why do you need to put palm kernel oil in your cleaning products? What does the oil actually do? I have burned palm oil candles in the past but are they safe for the environment? Are these candles actually made from palm kernel oil? I have read on other web sites that getting the oil from the palm pit is actually not very good for the environment. Can you explain the benefits of using this palm kernel oil? Concerned. Val D
cindieg picture
Sorry for such a basic question - what is sustainable palm kernel oil? The rain forest still has to be cleared out to create these fields, no?
Keith R picture
Keith R
Thanks very much for the detailed and candid answers. I suspected that RSPO and Greenpalm were involved, but did not want to presume it. I particularly appreciate hearing your reasoning and your assessment of these organizations -- I too think they have good potential, but like you, believe in "trust, but verify." I am crossing my fingers that RSPO's practice matches its promises. I myself am following this issue primarily because Colombia is investing so heavily in palm oil production (and the Colombian Environment Ministry is strongly advocating RSPO), and other Latin American and Caribbean nations are toying with following suit, although primarily with a view to using the oil for producing biodiesel rather than as exports for inputs into food and consumer products. [After all, it's Temas, so you just knew there had to be a LAC angle for my interest!] I read the 7Gen blog often, but have only commented a couple of times before. In each case 7Gen has replied with a thoughtful and candid response. This, as much as your good products and CSR policies, puts 7Gen heads-and-shoulders above many of its competitors in my book. In re-reading my 16 March comment, it strikes me that it might have sounded intentionally prickly or provocative, but I really did not mean it that way. What I was concerned about is that, in this day and age of an ever-growing & dizzying array of ecolabels, eco-certification, eco-credits & green claims, many consumers are beginning to tune them all out as likely corporate greenwashing because the average consumer simply doesn't have the time to research them all or cannot easily/readily find a trusted third party assessment (along the lines of a Consumers Report survey) of each new label, certification seal, credit or claim. My own impression -- and that is all it is, since I have not researched it in-depth -- from your blog, products, corporate statements & actions I am aware of, is that 7Gen does not greenwash, and that, as I said on 16 March, you do your homework and don't take such steps lightly. I just wanted you to share with us more of that homework & reasoning so we the consuming public understand better why this step is important and we should support & applaud it. Thanks again for your great response, Chris. Regards, Keith R
Christopher Miller picture
Christopher Miller
Keith: Thanks so much for your questions on our palm oil initiative, we appreciate them. First, let me start by reiterating that we view the purchase of certified sustainable palm kernel oil credits as simply the first step in a longer strategy to ultimately source a genuine segregated supply of sustainable palm kernel oil. We do not believe that it’s possible today for Seventh Generation to source a certified segregated supply of sustainable palm kernel oil. However, simply saying it’s impossible today is to be part of the problem, not the solution. The purchase of credits, called “book and claim”, means Seventh Generation is paying a premium to producers of palm kernel oil that have been certified as sustainable by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil ( We can in effect, support sustainability within the palm producing industry through the credit purchase, even though we are not able to currently source a segregated supply that physically ends up in our products. So to your questions: What exactly is a "certification credit"? Each credit purchased represents a premium paid to a producer for 1 metric ton of certified sustainably produced palm kernel oil. Who do you obtain it from? We purchased the credits directly from two producers, Sime Darby and New Britain Palm Oil Limited. The purchase of these credits is managed through an organization called GreenPalm matches RSPO certified producers with companies that purchase credits. For more info on the how exactly the “book and claim” credit purchase works, have a look here: It’s important to mention that Seventh Generation is subject to audits by Greenpalm to ensure that the credit purchase we made matches the amount of palm kernel oil used in our products. In addition, Greenpalm has strict guidelines around the claims we can make with regard to our credit purchase. Who is certification authority? As indicated above, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is the certifying body. The Roundtable is a non-profit, multi-stakeholder initiative, representing producers, processors, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks, investors, and NGOs. Seventh Generation has joined the RSPO. The RSPO uses independent, third party certification bodies that have a proven track record in sustainability certification. There are a number of environmental groups that have criticized the RSPO, and the truth is, the criticism is well deserved. The RSPO has been slow to move given the magnitude of the problem, and in some cases have engaged in practices that would be hard to describe in any other way than green washing. However, we are encouraged by the recent movement of Unilever, the chair of the RSPO, and others who have taken some important steps in recent months, including supporting Greenpeace’s call for a moratorium on the conversion of peatlands to palm plantations. This is a positive development, and one we strongly support. What criteria do they use to determine sustainability? Check out the fact sheet on the RSPO’s certification criteria here: Why should we trust in their certification? We believe the best approach is trust, but verify. Our strategic sourcing team put a lot of work into the selection process to determine who Seventh Generation would purchase credits from, including consultation with environmental NGOs partners, and a visit to palm producing communities. Is there independent auditing of applicants for certification? See above answer referencing 3rd party verification. Where is this certified sustainable palm oil sourced from? To be clear, we are not actually sourcing a segregated supply of sustainable palm oil, we have paid a premium to two producers who have been certified as sustainable palm oil producers by the RSPO. The two companies we have purchased credits from produce palm kernel oil in Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. Please stay tuned for more. Our credit purchase is only the beginning. Ultimately, we want to be leaders in the transformation of the palm oil industry. We will be working with NGOs, the RSPO, our suppliers, and others to create the demand for and support of sustainable practices with the palm oil industry. Please stay in touch, and let us know if you have other thoughts, ideas, or question. Chris Miller Corporate Consciousness
Keith R picture
Keith R
Interesting idea. But I'm curious about a few key points not explained either here in this blog post or in the "read further" articled linked to: * What exactly is a "certification credit"? Who do you obtain it from? * Who is certification authority? What criteria do they use to determine sustainability? Why should we trust in their certification? Is there independent auditing of applicants for certification? * Where is this certified sustainable palm oil sourced from? Hopefully not Indonesia. Colombia? My impression has long been that 7Gen usually does its homework on socio-environment responsibility issues, so I'm relatively confident this is not greenwashing and most likely you already have checked into this thoroughly and have all this info at hand. Can you share it with us? Thanks! Keith R The Temas Blog