Palm oil is highly controversial, being linked to many environmental, social and ethical concerns. With it being found in so many foods, it’s difficult to know what the best approach is when shopping.
On one hand, palm oil is seen as causing deforestation and endangering many species including orangutans, with palm oil plantations being linked to 47% of deforestation in Malaysia and 16% of deforestation in Indonesia between 1972 and 2015 (source).
On the other hand, palm oil accounted for only 0.2% of global deforestation between 2000 and 2013 (source). With yields several times higher than other oil crops, might it be better to use palm oil than use even more land to grow other oils? Is palm oil being unfairly vilified?
While “sustainable” palm oil is available through various schemes such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, there remains controversy over the extent to which these schemes truly make a difference as long as a market remains for non-certified palm oil.
Personally, I find this issue difficult as many versions of the vegan products I use contain palm oil, for example margarine. If a palm-oil free version is available then I will usually choose that; if not, then I seek out options that say their palm oil is sustainable. However, I’m not entirely satisfied with this approach and would love to hear other people’s thoughts.
How do you approach the issue of palm oil when shopping? Do you avoid all palm oil? Do you seek options with “sustainable” palm oil? Do you take some other approach?