Clive’s use of Palm Oil

Posted - 4th June 2018

At Clive’s we are deeply concerned about any negative impacts to the environment through the products we source. One of the most hotly debated here at Clive’s is our use of palm oil.

Why is Palm Oil a problem?

Multiple issues have been raised about palm oil and its sustainability concerns for the planet regarding deforestation and global warming. Whilst there is an increase in demand for palm oil in Europe the most dramatic increase is being driven by the demand for green energy (61%). https://www.transportenvironme…

The New Scientist recently published an article saying the real problem isn’t in your kitchen cupboard or bathroom cabinet – it is in your car. Half of all the palm oil imported by Europe is turned into biodiesel and blended into conventional fuel to power cars and trucks…

What about the alternatives?

Over the last couple of years we have worked with a number of food specialists to develop a special fat to use in our pastry. The challenge is to make pastry we need a fat that can be grated and added to the flour and water to be mixed. This means it needs to be hard at room temperature, so eliminates many oils, e.g. sunflower, olive, etc. Some food manufacturers will use a hydrogenated fat (which has undergone a chemical process to make it hard/spreadable at room temperature), but these are well documented as bad fats. Some food manufacturers will use animal fats, e.g. lard, but as a vegetarian/vegan pie manufacturer this isn’t something we could consider. Therefore the only options available to us are palm, avocado or coconut. Most alternatives aren’t as productive per acre as palm, so more land is needed to produce the same quantities. We are also mindful that rising demand for coconut and avocado oil will face the same issues that palm faces through clearing land, and therefore habitats, for production. The New Scientist reports…while palm oil has acquired a reputation as a villain, the plant itself, called oil palm, is something of a hero. It is up to nine times as productive per hectare as other sources of vegetable oils such as rapeseed (canola) and soybeans, meaning it requires less land.

We found this display really helpful at the Eden Project, Cornwall.

Where we are now

We would like to reduce our use of palm and continue to work with our suppliers to source these as organic alternatives and trial them in our cooking and baking. We continue to use palm whilst we work to source and test an alternative. In making this decision we have been careful that the palm oil we use is certified organic and sustainable.

There are different grades of organic palm oil (as defined by the RSPO), and ours is the highest level achievable, that is, Identity Preserved, which means it can be traced back to the farm where it is actually grown. Our grower strives to achieve even higher voluntary standards with RSPO Next…

Our chosen grower of palm oil is Daabon from Colombia due to their commitment to sustainable production. As evidenced by the significant increase of RSPO certified crude palm oil produced in recent years. In 2013 only 2% of Colombia’s crude palm oil was RSPO-certified, whereas in 2017, this increased to 14%. Additionally, earlier this year, Colombia has 44 million hectares of under-utilised, already degraded land which can be used for palm oil production without causing any deforestation. This is supported by the country signing a zero deforestation commitment in order to distance itself from the environmental problems occurring in Southeast Asia…

We have recently (November 2018) undertaken a full trace-ability study on our Palm, we felt greatly reassured by the robustness of the documentation we reviewed and the ethics of the supplier who grow sustainable Palm and are creating jobs in Colombia.

We welcome our customers feedback, do we turn our back on our ethical supplier and the jobs we are supporting in favour of an alternative fat such as coconut that creates a smaller yield and isn’t so well regulated?