Why You Need To Know the Difference Between Good and Bad Palm Oil

In collaboration with RSPO

Not all palm oil is created equal.

palm-oilHave you ever considered if the palm oil in the food you consume, the cosmetics you wear or the body products you use is good palm oil?

I haven’t until now. I didn’t know there was a difference and I feel somewhat guilty about it.

Over 50% of supermarket goods contain palm oil.

Around 70% of the world’s cosmetics and household detergents contain raw ingredients that are derived from palm oil.

Globally 74.01 million tonnes of palm oil were consumed in 2014, a figure that is expected to increase to a staggering 128.20 million tonnes by 2020.

Currently, only 17% of the world’s palm oil is GOOD palm oil, palm oil that is certified as being from a sustainable source.


Why should these figures matter to you or me?

They matter because the other 83% of palm oil is potentially BAD and considering how much is consumed, that’s a hell of a lot. You and I have likely consumed it without even realising.

But first, here’s why I’m telling you this.

The Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) approached me as the main consumer of my household to help them spread their message about Good Palm Oil and Bad Palm Oil and their #GoodBadPalmOil campaign. I’m glad they did otherwise I would continue to be somewhat oblivious to the situation I’m writing about here.
RSPO is a global, multi-stakeholder initiative on sustainable palm oil. RSPO’s members and participants from various backgrounds that produce or use palm oil work towards RSPO’s vision of transforming the markets by making sustainable palm oil the norm.  

So, what constitutes bad palm oil?


Bad Palm Oil…

  • Is produced using unsustainable practices
  • Is destroying virgin rainforests and ecosystems
  • Is increasing air pollution due to the loss of forests
  • Is responsible for unfair work conditions for local communities
  • Is putting animal species at risk of extinction

The truth about the animals

I for one want my children and grandchildren to be able to see and learn about orangutans, elephants, Sumatran tigers and Sumatran Rhinos, but at the rate things are going and if the sustainability of palm oil is not improved, these beautiful creatures could be extinct. The numbers are scary.

orangutan palm oil

The World Wildlife Fund, a member of RSPO, shares these scary statistics.

  • Fewer than 80,000 Orangutans survive today because their habitats are under constant threat of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Fewer than 3,000 Sumatran Elephants survive in Sumatra because of illegal production of palm oil in national parks.
  • Only 1,500 or so Bornean Pygmy Elephants survive in Borneo because of bad palm oil production.
  • The Sumatran Rhino is on the critically endangered list due to both poaching and destruction of their habitat due to bad palm oil production.
  • Fewer than 400 Sumatran Tigers live in Indonesia due to poaching and deforestation. A disturbing 85 percent of Sumatra’s forests have been lost in the last 50 years due to conversion for palm oil and pulp plantations.

You may have been consuming bad palm oil without even realising it

Good or Bad Palm Oil

Ice cream contains palm oil

Good or Bad Palm Oil

Noodles contain palm oil

Good and Bad Palm Oil

Don’t be fooled by the ingredient label

You may look at the ingredient label on a product and think that the product does not contain palm oil. Look again. WWF shares some useful information showing that Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names, including:

INGREDIENTS: Vegetable Oil, Vegetable Fat, Palm Kernel, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm Fruit Oil, Palmate, Palmitate, Palmolein, Glyceryl, Stearate, Stearic Acid, Elaeis Guineensis, Palmitic Acid, Palm Stearine, Palmitoyl Oxostearamide, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-3, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Kernelate, Sodium Palm Kernelate, Sodium Lauryl Lactylate/Sulphate, Hyrated Palm Glycerides, Etyl Palmitate, Octyl Palmitate, Palmityl Alcohol

CONTAINS: Palm oil

How do you know if a product uses good palm oil?

Take a look at the Palm Oil Scorecard 2016 and see where your favourite brands stand when it comes to good and bad palm oil. Support the brands that support good palm oil and tell the brands you buy who don’t to pull their finger out or avoid them altogether. I’m glad to say Coles, the people I prefer to shop with are right up there with supporting good palm oil and influencing their supply chain. But there are others that need to get their butts into gear.

Oh and everyone’s favourite choc Hazelnut Spread, Nutella. Well, Nutella, under the umbrella of Ferrero, are members of the RSPO. As of 1st January 2015 Ferrero products are produced with only palm fruit oil that is 100% certified as sustainable and segregated according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) supply chain, one year ahead of its original target.

How you can help

Spread the message

Along with RSPO I’m hoping I can help spread the message about good and bad palm oil.

You can help by visiting goodbadpalmoil.org to learn more and by sharing the information on this website to your social profiles. It’s easy.

I’d also love it if you could share this article with your friends and family. You can find the social sharing buttons at the end of this article.

Read the labels

Learn to read your product labels and find alternatives if you can’t find a product that uses good palm oil.

Support brands that support good palm oil


When we arm ourselves with information and knowledge we can do great things. Here’s hoping that this information will reach far and wide and that one day very soon, good palm oil will become the norm.


Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

Eva is the Editor and Owner of The Multitasking Woman. She always has her fingers in many different pies but wouldn't have it any other way. Eva is a freelance writer, a social media manager, a Mum to her six-year-old son, one-year-old daughter, six chickens and Benny the dog and wife to Mr G. They all live happily in their little worker's cottage in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia.
Eva Lewis (The Multitasking Woman)

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