Source: Rainforest Foundation Norway
Norwegian food producers used 15 000 tons of palm oil in 2011. A successful campaign mobilizing public pressure has reduced consumption by two thirds.
The palm oil industry is the main cause of rainforest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. 88 percent of the world’s palm oil is produced in these two countries, including palm oil for the Norwegian market.
Last autumn, Rainforest Foundation Norway (RFN) launched a campaign with two aims; to reduce Norwegian palm oil consumption and to expose the link between deforestation and the production of this vegetable oil. The campaign, which was developed in collaboration with the organization Green Living, targeted all major food producers in Norway.
The response has been overwhelming, says Lars Løvold, Director of Rainforest Foundation Norway. Thanks to Norwegian consumers, the use of palm oil in Norwegian food products has decreased by two thirds.
An inspiring example
Producers were asked to disclose details about their use of palm oil, and whether the palm oil was sourced from sustainable sources. Norwegian law obliges companies to provide such information, if it is considered relevant for environmental concerns. The results of the investigation were published in a “palm oil guide”, a unique web-based tool where consumers can check the occurrence of palm oil in Norwegian food products. Previously, this information was unavailable, and the use of palm oil concealed as “vegetable oil” or “vegetable fat”.
The campaign received extensive media coverage, resulting in increased consumer awareness. Norwegian food producers responded rapidly, significantly reducing their use of palm oil. Eight major producers have cut their consumption with some 9 600 tons – a reduction of nearly two thirds of the total consumption of 15 000 tons. In 2011 every Norwegian inadvertently consumed three kilos of palm oil through food products. From now on they will only consume one kilo per year.
This is very good news both for the rainforest, its inhabitants and for Norwegians. Palm oil production represents a major threat against the rainforest and local communities depending on the forest. Norwegian companies are setting an inspiring example which needs to be followed by others, says Løvold.
Need to change global policies
Several companies have completely abandoned the use of palm oil. The Norwegian company Stabburet used to be one of the largest buyers of palm oil, but has now established a policy to avoid all use. The largest buyer, Mills, has reduced its use by 95 per cent as of June this year.
- We are very pleased with the results of the campaign, comments Løvold. – I don’t believe that similar large scale reductions in the use of palm oil have been obtained in any other country.
Despite the good results, there is still work to be done. Some food producers continue to use palm oil in their products and show little willingness to search for alternatives.
The campaign has so far only targeted food sold in grocery stores – not in restaurants and fast food chains. Palm oil is also used in a wide range of other products, such as cosmetics, animal feed, detergents and biofuels.
Løvold would like to see the campaign contributing to reducing the global consumption of palm oil. Many of the food producers for the Norwegian market are multinational companies. If these companies would change their global policies, this would really make a difference. Hence, Rainforest Foundation Norway urges consumers to continue fighting for rainforest friendly food.
Norwegian food producers have demonstrated that it is possible to produce and sell food without palm oil, avoiding complicity in rainforest destruction. The experience from Norway should inspire consumers globally to demand food products which do not contribute to rainforest destruction, says Lars Løvold.