Sustainability means “to endure.” A sustainable business is a company that leaves no negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy. The business strives to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address current environmental concerns and that it “meets the needs of the present world without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.”
Orangutans, Tigers, and Rhinoceroses
Palm oil, coconut oil and palm kernel oil are edible plant oils derived from the fruits of palm trees. Palm oil is extracted from the pulp of the fruit of the oil palm; palm kernel oil is derived from the kernel (seed) of the oil palm, and coconut oil is derived from the kernel of the coconut. Palm oil is a basic source of income for many farmers in South East Asia, Central and West Africa, and Central America. It is used as cooking oil, can be found in many commercial food and personal care products and is converted into biofuel. It produces up to 10 times more oil per unit area as soybeans, grape seeds or sunflowers. It is a common oil used in making cold-process soaps, especially because it makes the soap hard, which is a desirable trait in a quality product.
Why is using certified sustainable palm oil better than boycotting its use?
• If you boycott one type of oil, another will just take its place. Whereas using a sustainable oil is a win-win situation.
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil
The palm oil crisis is not new. In fact, environmentalists have been concerned since the 70’s. As the situation worsened with the increased population world-wide and an increase in production by 43% in the 90’s, it became apparent that an alternative solution was necessary. Hence, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was born in 2004.
According to the RSPO website…
RSPO is a not-for-profit association that unites stakeholders from seven sectors of the palm oil industry - oil palm producers, palm oil processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks and investors, environmental or nature conservation NGOs and social or developmental NGOs - to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil.
RSPO certifies producers and processors in the palm oil industry. They have created a strict set of guidelines for palm oil producers to prevent negative environmental impacts and promote fair trade. Participating companies undergo regular audits. Sustainable palm oil is handled by producers and processors that are certified through RSPO from start to finished product and is completely traceable by the RSPO, so you know that you are getting a completely sustainable oil. Additionally, many of the sustainable palm oil plantations are also certified organic, which is an added plus.
So now where do you find RSPO certified sustainable palm oil? While other suppliers may in fact offer sustainable palm oil, two soap supply companies that have openly stated they carry the certified oils are Cibaria Soap Supply and Soaper’s Choice/ Columbus Foods. You can check with your favorite supplier to find out if they offer RSPO certified sustainable palm oil. If they don’t, you should request that they do.
To learn more about certified sustainable palm oil, visit www.rspo.org.
One such organization has made it their mission to establish a fair trade system with the African women who make shea butter. Alaffia Sustainable Skin Care is one of a several places that offers certified fair trade shea butter. The following was quoted from their website www.alaffia.com ...
It is estimated to take 20 to 30 hours of labor to produce one kilogram of handcrafted shea butter, which is traded at $1 or less in today's market. A woman making shea butter in West Africa will receive only a fraction of this price. Therefore, a person working for 30 hours will not receive even a dollar for her efforts. Even if she received the whole dollar, this does not even begin to reach living wage standards.
• Additionally, Alaffia does much for the communities including a Bicycles for Education program
Alaffia is not the only company that offers fairly traded shea butter. A quick search on the internet will reveal quite a few. Be sure to choose one that has certified fair trade products, as independent auditors regularly visit the areas to be sure that all of the rules of fair trade are followed, including safe working conditions and no child labor.