SODASAN Comment concerning palm oil

10.09.2014 10:16:59

SODASAN Comment concerning palm oil

In the year 2012 worldwide more than 46.000.000 tons of palm oil were produced and processed. This means that palm oil is worldwide the most important vegetable oil. The reason for this is, apart from the actual characteristics of this oil also the fact that a large part of the worldwide demand of vegetable oil with palm oil can be covered with a comparatively small area. The oil palm renders a crop of 4 to 6 tons of palm oil per hectare and year. In comparison to palm oil the crop with rapeseed is approximately 1.5 to 2 tons rapeseed oil per hectare and year. The countries Malaysia and Indonesia are the greatest palm oil producers and have together a market share of approximately 87%. Producing countries like Colombia, Nigeria and Thailand are with approximately 800.000 tons each per year each around 2%.

 I write this to demonstrate the magnitude order we discuss about.

According to Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe (=Agency for Renewable Resources) in the year 2011 the worldwide produced palm oil and palm kernel oil was used to 68 % for food products (for example margarine, salad oil and frying and cooking fat),to 27% for industrial purposes (for example cleaning detergents, cosmetics, candles) and to 5 % for energy generation. There are other sources which numeralize the percentage of the palm oil used for industrial purposes even only with 10%. 

We do not want to abdicate from our responsibility which we have as a producer of washing and cleaning products which processes palm oil. However, I would like to mention a cross reference also to the producers of organic food.

The point is not essentially to replace palm oil. It is rather necessary to solve the ecological and social problems that are connected with the conventional production of palm oil. An important step in this direction is to look for alternatives on the market. Here are particularly worth mentioning the ecological and socially acceptable working projects in Columbia (DAABON) and Ghana (Serendipalm, GEPA). Ecological and socially acceptable crop growing of oil palms would of course be possible in other tropical countries. In January 2013 I visualized the situation on the Ivory Coast where also palm oil is produces in small constitutions (cooperative societies). Nevertheless, in my opinion there it seems impossible to produce palm oil in an (ecological) quality which seems suitable for further processing. It needs major investments concerning time and capital which we are not able to afford.

I had the opportunity to have a look at the palm oil production in Columbia in October 2012.  Daabon here works with certified ecological and social standards. New afforested areas were grasslands before and not at all rain forest. We really had the impression that the company management takes this topic very seriously and defines ecology as a business objective.

In addition to an oil mill, a refinery and a biodiesel production, Daabon has installed a soap production according to the state of the art from which we purchase certified (Ecocert) raw soap for our soap bar production.

The largest percentage of palm oil in our products is in the raw materials, particularly in the above mentioned raw soap. However, also the sugar surfactants we use are partly produced of palm oil and up to the present we do not have a serious ecological alternative. At least the palm oil used in this raw material is RSPO certified.

The abbreviation means „Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil“.  This certifying initiative was created 2014 on the initiative of WWF (World Wildlife Fund) in order to produce palm oil from sustainable cultivation. Members of the „Round Table“ are among several Non-Governmental organizations also enterprises as Unilever and tade organizations as Aldi Süd, EDEKA and Carrefour. Scrutinized critically the RSPO criteria are too negligent or careless and for this reason the WWF has meanwhile distanced itself from the RSPO. You may find more concerning this theme for example in the magazine Ökotest, edition October 2011. The conclusion there reads:  „The label of the RSPO is a beginning, but not more.“ I definitely agree to this opinion.

And finally I would like to point out that on development of our products always ecological  AND social aspects play an important part. From our point of view ecology can only be contemplated and implemented holistically.  For this reason, right from the start of a product development we also consider the question of the origin of our raw material. It’s our aim to move in circuits. That results inevitably to the implication that we do not use raw material which is produced by means of gene-modified manipulation in any kind. We neither use washing ingredents that contain petrochemical ingredients. Genetic engineering and petrochemistry are linear processes that run irreversible in one direction and sooner or later reach their limits.

I hope I could illustrate our point of view and I would be glad if you come to similar conclusions. In case you have questions I will be at your disposal.

Jürgen Hack
Managing Director of SODASAN

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