We do use palm oil in some of our products. Palm oil is pressed from the fruits of the Elaeis guinensis, originally from West Africa. West African people have used palm oil since time immemorial for food, medical and other applications, and since the 19th Century it has been imported into Europe in substantial quantities. Palm oil is made up of fatty acids and, after many stages of processing, can be used to make surfactants. These surfactants have excellent technical properties—neutral odor, great water solubility, washing efficiency, stable lather, not to mention their ecological properties.
However, the reckless introduction of palm trees in regions where they are not indigenous, mainly Malaysia, Java and Borneo, and the cutting of forests to set up new plantations led to growing environmental concern. Increasing demand for palm oil has led to an increase of greenhouse gases, habitat destruction, extinction of species, degradation of native food, water and product sources. Although it’s impossible for Ecover to change the short-term situation regarding palm oil, we feel a responsibility to try and make the right choices and influence the market to move towards sustainable palm oil production since it’s an important material used worldwide. In 2008, Ecover became a voting member of The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO, www.rspo.org), an NGO-based in Southeast Asia, grouping all stakeholders of palm oil production, transformation and use.