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Why you can’t trust the Guardian on Palm Oil

When I first became aware of the palm oil issue, I was pleased to see that the problems caused by the industry were regularly raised in the Guardian newspaper. But as with most things, there always comes a time when you have to take a step back and remember that you can’t believe everything you read in the press.

At the moment, fires rage in Indonesia, filling neighbouring countries with a polluting smog, destroying rainforests and killing birds and animals in their millions. I found it odd that this was the time the Guardian chose to run an article about palm oil plantations “powering communities and tackling climate change“.

But then I realised, the article was sponsored by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), as many of their articles on the subject are. Perhaps then this is the reason why they ran a positive story about palm oil plantations during the time of year when the same plantations cause so much destruction in Asia.

After a quick search of their website, I found this article on sustainable palm oil that included the point “consumers should not boycott palm oil”. This was again sponsored by the RSPO and it went on to explain that “replacing [palm oil] will have to use more land.”

This seems an odd claim, since there are now ethical companies producing everything from cosmetics to chocolate to deodorant to peanut butter without it. Are they destroying the rainforest? No.

Let’s take Meridian foods as an example. Nut butters are notorious for using palm oil, because it acts as an emulsifier to stop the product from separating. So Meridian produce nut butter from – well yes, nuts. Some of their products don’t contain anything else, others might contain something as innocent as a bit of sea salt.

And what of that emulsifier that is so hard to replace, what deforestation inducing methods are they turning to in order to replace it? Well they let consumers know that if it separates, they can sort it out by giving it a stir.

They’re not the only ones either, my list of palm oil free companies in the UK is here. It is by no means a complete list, but it’s a great starting point if you would like to manage without palm oil.

I’ve also made a pretty awesome moisturiser myself that doesn’t contain palm oil.

2015-09-15 21.21.32

And aside from that argument, it’s not just deforestation that causes problems with palm oil plantations as anyone living in an area currently overcome with smog will tell you.

And what of the RSPO, don’t they guarantee that palm oil is deforestation free? Well according to Green Peace, no they don’t. The RSPO don’t prevent deforestation or the destruction of peat lands. RSPO palm oil producers still set fires, thereby contributing to the smog and the out of control deforestation caused by fire.

So do I agree with the advice that consumers shouldn’t boycott all palm oil? Of course not.

Palm oil is in so much that it’s really difficult to avoid it all together. But if we can all cut down on our consumption by switching to some of the amazing brands that don’t use it, we’ll be voting with our wallets in a much better way than if we just switch to RSPO certified palm oil.

And at the end of the day, on an issue like this our wallets usually carry the only vote we have.



  1. September 18, 2015 / 10:02 pm

    It’s always worth looking for sponsorship of apparently unbiased articles. Most folk just skim the headlines and the key phrases and don’t give it another thought. The podcast ‘more or less’ is brilliant for getting to the bottom of claims made by the media and politicians. Well done for bringing attention to this problem xxx

    • September 19, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Thank you Maz. I’ll check out that podcast too.x

  2. aNoviceMum
    September 19, 2015 / 4:19 am

    It’s crazy how companies sponsor articles to promote their controversial offerings. There was the case of Nestle and breastfeeding (again) recently.

    It’s so important to read with an awareness of bias. Thanks for raising awareness about this important issue; future generation is at stake if we don’t vote more with our wallets. #CommentLuv

    • September 19, 2015 / 10:17 pm

      Thank you. Nestlé is definitely another concern, breastfeeding is so important, especially in areas where there is no clean water and I know they’re infamous for targeting those places to brainwash them into using formula.x

  3. September 21, 2015 / 7:21 pm

    This is such a shame as I did used to enjoy the Guardian – they always seemed fairer and more ethical than other media giants. *sigh*

    I’m really trying so hard to cut out palm oil – I missed the moisturiser you made though so I’m gonna go check that out in a mo! We do buy much less that contains it, and we are asking for a breadmaker for christmas so that we can make our own bread without palm oil and without paying a hefty premium for doing so. We are currently living on the waitrose sourdough 3 malts, which is delicious, but it’s so expensive!

    Well done for highlighting the palm issue once again xx

    • September 21, 2015 / 8:03 pm

      Thanks Nat. Such a good idea on the breadmaker too, definitely something I’m tempted by as well! I wouldn’t necessarily avoid the Guardian because of this but I guess it’s about taking it all with a pinch of salt.xx

  4. December 7, 2015 / 5:16 am

    I don’t know enough about this issue but it’s true that you always need to look at who is sponsoring articles before you can trust the content.

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:11 am

      Definitely, it’s so important.x

  5. December 7, 2015 / 9:29 am

    Just goes to show you can’t believe what’s in the papers! Xx

  6. December 7, 2015 / 10:14 am

    I definitely don’t know enough about the palm oil issue, as I didn’t realise it was in food as well, just shows how little is publicised about it (or how little I read, whichever way you want to take it).

    It’s definitely something I am going to go and read up on now and I know that here is a good place to start 🙂 x

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:09 am

      Thank you Laura, it’s great to hear that you are going to look into it.x

  7. December 7, 2015 / 11:49 am

    Your moistuiser you have made up sounds amazing. It’s good that you are raising awareness on such things.

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:09 am

      Thank you Joanna, I love the moisturiser.x

  8. December 7, 2015 / 8:53 pm

    It’s really good that you are raising awareness of this. So many people don’t realise, and for those that do it is so confusing x

  9. December 8, 2015 / 9:02 am

    It’s always important to read who the article was written by or sponsored by as you can’t always trust it’s an honest unbiased opinion. It makes it confusing so well done for clarifying!:)

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:07 am

      Thank you Alice, I agree it’s important to look out for who has sponsored an article or piece of research.x

  10. December 8, 2015 / 11:13 am

    i never read newspapers, it’s so difficult to know if we can trust what we read isn’t it? Great post, thank you for raising the awareness of this issue. Kaz x

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:06 am

      Yeah I totally agree, it’s really important to not believe everything you read.x

  11. December 8, 2015 / 9:43 pm

    I don’t really know anything about the palm oil problem and what’s been going on, so I found this post really informative! Well done raising awareness! I definitely agree not to read everything you read in the press too x

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:02 am

      Thank you Emma, I’m so glad you found it helpful.x

  12. December 9, 2015 / 9:55 pm

    I might sound naive but I had no idea articles in newspapers were sponsored like the one you refer to! To be fair, I don’t read newspaper and I don’t ever intend to, but there are so many people out there that believe everything they read. Shame x

    • December 19, 2015 / 12:00 am

      Yes you’re right, it is too easy to just believe what you read, especially when newspapers don’t make it sufficiently clear that they are sponsored.x

  13. December 11, 2015 / 7:37 pm

    I have never heard about this, or never read about it. Thank you for highlighting it for me, I am off to find out more about it.

    • December 18, 2015 / 11:54 pm

      Thank you, it’s great to know that people are becoming more aware of the issue.x

  14. December 12, 2015 / 3:55 pm

    You know, I had never really considered the newspapers promoting sponsored content in such a seemingly underhand way!

    • December 18, 2015 / 11:51 pm

      Neither had I to be honest, it’s quite worrying on such important issues.x

  15. December 19, 2015 / 12:01 am

    Thank you Becky, I really appreciate that. So glad to hear that you’re careful what you buy.x

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