Palm oil continues to sit at the centre of a global debate around the emotive issue of rainforest preservation and protection of endangered species – and yet, when sourced responsibly, it is actually one of the most sustainable compared to many other commonly-used oils.
We only want to use Palm Oil that is responsibly produced, protects animal habitats, respects local and indigenous communities and does not contribute to deforestation. That’s why, alongside Earthworm Foundation, we have been working to influence real change on the ground – from supporting small-scale farmers that rely on Palm Oil to make a living, to empower local communities to conserve and protect vital forest areas.
What is Palm Oil?
Palm oil comes from the oil palm tree and is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. Nearly 50% of packaged products in our supermarkets contain palm oil and it is ubiquitous as a cooking oil in Africa and Asia.
Two oils come from palm oil fruit. Crude palm oil (CPO) is made from the fleshy part of the fruit, and palm kernel oil (PKO) is created by crushing the fruit kernel or stone. CPO is an ingredient in processed foods, while PKO is commonly used in cosmetics, skincare, soaps and shampoos.
Global demand for palm oil is continuing to rise and rapid development of new palm oil plantations has led to well-documented environmental and social problems including deforestation, which can lead to loss of habitat and climate change.
Why is it used in so many products?
Palm oil is a highly versatile ingredient and one of the most land-efficient of all the most commonly used, mass-produced oils. You may not know, but oil palms produce 40% of the world’s vegetable oils. Yet they actually account for just 7% of the entire area used to grow all oil crops.
Area (hectares) required to produce 1 metric tonne of Vegetable oil for all major crops
It takes just 0.27 hectares to produce one metric tonne of palm oil compared to 1.44 hectares per tonne of rapeseed oil, 2.08 hectares per tonne of sunflower oil and 2.63 hectares per tonne of soybean oil. The crops also need fewer pesticides and fertilisers than other plants.
Why not just ban palm oil altogether?
That isn’t necessarily the solution. Both the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and numerous other NGOs, believe a ban would be counter-productive by shifting production to other oils that need more land and resources to grow. Emerging economies also rely on palm oil for their own prosperity and
How much palm oil does PZ Cussons use and where does it come from?
Many of our products, in particular our personal care products, contain palm oil or palm oil derivatives. However, this equates to less than 0.001% of the world’s total palm oil supply. We source it from mills in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Nigeria.
Does PZ Cussons have a sustainable palm oil policy?
Absolutely. In 2014 we published our PZ Palm Oil Promise setting out our No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) commitment, which aims to ensure our palm oil is responsibly sourced. This means respecting local and indigenous communities, protecting animal habitats and not contributing to deforestation.
In October 2018 we published our 2020 Action Plan, which comprises of five strategic objectives. Within them we pledge that 100% of our palm oil will come from independently verified, NDPE-compliant producers traceable back to individual mills, with the aim of achieving this by the end of 2020.
Today, 100% of our palm oil and palm kernel oil suppliers and 99% of our palm oil derivative suppliers have NDPE commitments to ours. Additionally, 99% of our palm oil and 94% of our palm oil derivatives are fully traceable to mill.
Our target was always an ambitious one and we are proud of the significant progress we have made towards it. Our commitment to sourcing responsible palm oil remains as strong as ever. Our new 2023 Palm Oil Action Plan has been developed to ensure we fulfil and expand upon our 2020 commitment, focusing on supplier engagement, transformation and independent verification and applying what we have learnt on our palm oil journey so far.
Who do we work with?
To achieve our goals, we are working with the Earthworm Foundation, an independent, global, non-profit organisation. It aims to make a positive impact on the relationship between people and nature by partnering with businesses to solve social and environmental challenges.
Aside from our NDPE commitment, we are also members of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). This is a non-profit organisation, promoting the production and use of sustainable palm oil: 40% of the world’s palm oil producers are members of RSPO, alongside many manufacturers, retailers, environmental and social-non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Our 5 strategic objectives
No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation compliance
We are working closely with suppliers and making responsible sourcing part of our product quality discussions. This will help us achieve our NDPE goals. We are making good progress and many now support our NDPE aims and establishing their own. Of course, we still have work to do, building relationships and encouraging supplier engagement.
Open and transparent approach to reporting on progress
We know our goals towards 100% sustainable and traceable palm oil are ambitious. Therefore, to ensure we can meet our 2020 commitment, we frequently review our progress and have committed to providing updates on progress towards our 2020 Palm Oil Action Plan every six months. We will also report our progress and future plans via our Annual Report.
Developing Nigeria’s sustainable palm oil industry
PZ Wilmar is a joint venture between global agribusiness group Wilmar International and PZ Cussons, to build a sustainable palm oil industry in Nigeria.
We are supporting local farmers – and encouraging local and national government – to promote sustainable, and best-practice, oil palm farming. At the same time, we are working with the Central Bank of Nigeria and other commercial banks to create access to investment finance for smallholder farmers.
In addition, we are supporting 43 smallholder farmers in Nigeria’s Cross River State to form co-operatives, open bank accounts and obtain legal ownership documents.
Understanding where our palm oil comes from is a critical part of our Action Plan. However, tracing palm oil and its derivatives back to the mill or oil palm plantation is complex because it often goes through numerous processing stages. In October 2019, we expanded our traceability and supplier engagement efforts to include all palm derived ingredients and fractions. We continue to encourage wider industry progress by working closely with our suppliers and the Earthworm Foundation.
Investing in transformation and independent verification
The Earthworm Foundation is ‘our partner on the ground’. It works with palm oil farmers to encourage better environmental and social practices. We are using Earthworm Foundation programme Kumacaya, to check if, and how, the social aspects of our NDPE commitments are being delivered. This worked by tapping into the expertise and understanding of local people in the regions where our palm oil is produced.
We are using satellite technology to monitor and independently verify our suppliers’ commitment to protecting forested areas. We do this using the sophisticated Starling programme that draws on satellite imagery and radar data.
Our forest conservation and restoration action plan addresses the regeneration of previously cleared forests and conservation of forest areas.
PZ is committed to conducting all our activities in accordance with high standard of business conduct.
We have a number of policies and procedures in place that sets out specific steps that businesses within the group must take to ensure we are compliant with these standards.