Ingredients 101: Sustainable Palm Oil
All Africology palm oil is sourced from sustainable and ethical resources under the auspices of RSPO and ISEAL. We use it in place of animal-derived fats to safely emulsify and thicken our soaps, both liquid and solid.
What is it?
Palm oil (also known as dendê oil) is an edible vegetable oil derived from the mesocarp (reddish pulp) of the fruit of the oil palms, primarily the African oil palm Elaeis guineensis, and to a lesser extent from the American oil palm and the maripa palm.
Why is it used in beauty products?
It is used for two properties: it contains Myristic acid, a fatty acid that can be found in nutmeg butter, palm oil, kernel oil and butter fat. It is used to add hardness and lather to sodium-based soaps and to add thickness and lather to liquid soaps. Myristic acid is water soluble and can be used in liquid soaps without clouding them. It also provides stearic acid, which blends oil and water together to emulsify products and help them set.
Africology uses palm oil in place of animal-derived oils to ensure that our soaps and similar products maintain their shape, lather, and texture.
Are there other options?
Although using other vegetable oils seems like a practical solution, it would actually create similar - if not even larger - environmental and social problems. Therefore, the best solution is to ensure you buy products that contain sustainable palm oil.
According to the Round Table of Sustainable Palm Oil, “there is a misconception that these concerns can be addressed when companies simply stop using palm oil in their products. However, this is not as easy as it sounds for a number of reasons”:
- Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. This would result in serious environmental damage, with the risk that more forests would need to be converted into agricultural land.
- In producing countries, millions of farmers and their families work in the palm oil sector. Palm oil plays an important role in the reduction of poverty in these areas. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry.
How can palm oil be sustainably and ethically harvested?
There are international bodies that oversee the production and sale of palm oil. We follow RSPO principles and criteria, which are developed and revised every five years. The standards setting process is done following best practices as stipulated by ISEAL.
ISEAL represents the movement of credible and innovative sustainability standards. ISEAL's mission is to strengthen sustainability standards for the benefit of people and the environment.
Its membership is open to all multi-stakeholder sustainability standards and accreditation bodies that demonstrate their ability to meet the ISEAL Codes of Good Practice and accompanying requirements, and commit to learning and improving.
Africology chooses to work with suppliers who meet the standards set by these groups, who ensure that ingredients are sustainably, ethically and fairly harvested.