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Sustainable palm oil

We are a member of RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). We support the sustainable production of palm oil as an important renewable raw material in the production of cleaning agents.

The objective of RSPO is to protect tropical forests and their inhabitants by managing the growing areas sustainably. Worldwide, the aim is to ensure that all palm oil is sustainably harvested.

Denise Läubli, Head of Research/Development at Steinfels Swiss, explains why we use palm oil at Steinfels Swiss:

Why do we use palm oil?

First of all, we need to differentiate between palm oil and palm kernel oil.

Palm oil accounts for a far greater proportion and is primarily used in food. Its unique fatty acid profile is used in chocolate spreads, for example – few alternatives offer a comparable melt-in-the-mouth texture.

Palm kernel oil accounts for 10% of palm oil production and derivatives are used in cosmetics and cleaning products. These derivatives are obtained through further processing of palm kernel oil. Depending on how it is processed, different raw materials are produced, such as tensides, which are responsible for the cleaning performance of laundry detergents and cleaning agents. As in foods, the unique fatty acid profile is key here: it results in a particularly good washing performance.

Are there alternatives to palm kernel oil?

From a technical standpoint, there are now tensides (detergent substances) made from sunflowers and rapeseed. However, their washing performance is substantially lower. This means that more tensides have to be used and the washing is still less clean.

In terms of cultivation areas and sustainability, WWF also concludes that switching to a different oil plant is not the solution due to the high yield per area of cultivated land. Indeed, oil palms yield an average of 3.3 tonnes of oil per hectare versus just 0.7 tonnes for sunflowers and rapeseed. Sunflower oil production therefore requires almost five times as much land. For this reason, the only solution is sustainable palm oil production.

Is sustainable palm oil production possible?

The sustainability of a raw material involves a range of criteria and is always subject to comparison with the alternatives. The lower level of land use is therefore not the only important parameter and is far from being a strong enough argument for sustainable production. Transparency, sustainability standards and reducing deforestation and conversion risk are other key points when it comes to sustainability and palm (kernel) oil. Together with the Coop sustainability department, we are setting ourselves ambitious targets in all three of these areas.

In terms of sustainability standards, we are backing RSPO-certified raw materials: we opt for RSPO-certified quality where available.

What does RSPO-certified mean?

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was founded at the initiative of WWF and has been advocating for sustainable palm oil since 2004. Conserving and protecting the ecosystem and respecting social standards are just two of the seven RSPO principles.

RSPO has several certification systems. Mass Balance (MB) certification is available in many cases for raw materials for cosmetics and cleaning agents. Each year, we calculate the volume of materials that we were unable to procure in RSPO MB-certified quality and offset this with the purchase of “book and claim” certificates. Purchasing these certificates supports RSPO-certified local smallholders.

So you believe RSPO is the right approach?

RSPO is the route to sustainable palm oil. WWF believes that rather than boycotting palm oil, the solution is sustainable production of this raw material.
(Source: https://wwf.panda.org/discover/our_focus/food_practice/sustainable_production/palm_oil/responsible_purchasing/)

Our aim is therefore to switch entirely to RSPO MB-certified palm oil as soon as possible. Wherever possible, we aim to go one step further by increasing transparency and even purchasing palm oil derivatives that are certified “segregated” under the RSPO system, meaning they are physically traceable.

 

Denise Läubli
Head of Development / Regulatory Affairs

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