Combatting the palm oil crisis is a mission that is close to our hearts. For a problem on such a large scale, we needed a multi-faceted approach; ensuring that our products are 100% palm-oil free, educating our customers and partnering with Orangutan Outreach who provide care and protection for orangutans affected by the palm oil crisis.
Who is Orangutan Outreach?
Orangutan Outreach is a non-profit organisation that seeks to protect orangutans within their native habitat whilst providing care and rehabilitation for displaced orangutans until they can be returned to their natural environment. Forming a network of partnerships with rescue and conservation organisations including the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), The International Animal Rescue (IAR) and many more, these dedicated individuals collaborate to raise funds and promote public awareness of the orangutans’ plight. Individuals and companies can help the Orangutan Outreach through direct donations, purchasing Orangutan Outreach merchandise on their online shop, or by virtually adopting one of the orangutans who are currently being cared for by a partner conservation organisation. When virtually adopting an orangutan, the funds go directly toward providing for that orangutan’s care until they can be safely released back into the forest.
How is Ambassador Foods doing its part?
Our first action to combat this crisis was to create a range of palm oil free products that will afford consumers the opportunity to make a better choice to combat this problem.
Our second and most recent development has been to virtually adopt 3 beautiful orangutans, Cinta, Gatot and Topan from Orangutan Outreach. A percentage of all proceeds made through the purchase of our products goes to the upkeep and protection of the orangutans that we have virtually adopted so that our Ambassadors can also play a part in the care of these beautiful animals.
Our third action is to provide ongoing education on the palm oil crisis to raise awareness for this important topic, starting with this very article.
So what is palm oil?
Palm oil is derived from the pressing of fruit from the oil palm tree which thrives in tropical environments and originally hails from the African continent. Its use has risen dramatically over the last few decades with utilization within a large number of industries from food to cosmetics. Palm oil accounts for a third of all vegetable oil used worldwide according to a 2013 scientific study. Its production is showing no sign of slowing with worldwide production almost doubling over 10 years from 2000 to 2010 according to a publication by The Center for International Forestry Research. It is currently the most inexpensive vegetable oil available on the market due to its high yield and low labour costs. This combined with palm oil’s versatility and lack of public education on its negative effects, maintains its upward trajectory in both production and use.
What is the palm oil crisis?
Palm oil plantations take up 40.6 million acres of land worldwide (according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists). This is the size of about 70% of the entire United Kingdom and is usually at the expense of indigenous forests, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia where palm oil plantations are rife. The destruction of forests is devastating not only to the environment and animals that dwell within these eco-systems, but also to the local people who rely on these forests for their way of life. Many of the animals at risk are only found within these specific regions and only 15% of these animals can survive within oil palm plantations according to a 2008 scientific study (Fitzherbert et al. 2008). To clear the land for these plantations, fire is often used, and many creatures, including orangutans, are not fast enough to escape the blaze. The associated pollution from these fires release hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, drastically impacting climate change. The pollution has also created an international health concern, with the smoke causing respiratory problems to people living even thousands of kilometres away. The low cost of labour that makes palm oil so inexpensive is often due to rampant child and slave labour, with children as young as 8 being utilized, according to an investigation by Amnesty. The same investigation found that workers were paid as little as $2.50 (£1.90) daily, worked unlawful hours and were performing dangerous tasks without any personal protective gear.
Between irreversible damage to the environment, animals and the children and people native to these areas, there is no doubt that the harm of palm oil farming far outweighs any benefit this product may offer.