Soaptopia — Uses RSPO Palm Oil – Big Deal (Yawn) – They Need To Do Better!




I went into a Whole Foods yesterday to buy some TRULY sustainable palm oil soap -Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap.  (Go to their website, they tout a Ghana farm that is completely sustainable.)   While there, I bumped into a big display featuring a heap of colorful, cool, enticing, hip soaps for half the price of Bronner’s and featuring all colors in the multi-colored rainbow.  They look like ice cream flavors and good enough to eat.  My personal favorite was Purple Haze (hey I’m a nouveau hippie).

But it comes with a catch — PALM OIL!  Look right there on the label.

So I wrote them, of course, inquiring about their sourcing.  Here’s their response:

Hi Rick, Thanks for advocating for this important issue. We are certainly aware of the issue and we strive to always use ingredients that have minimal impact on our environment. We do use palm oil and do work with our suppliers to always seek better sources. We understand that no certification, including RSPO, is perfect, and we always look for are more reliable sources. Please continue to push on this issue and we promise to continue to keep looking for the best most sustainable ingredients for our products.


That wasn’t good enough for me.  So I replied.

So you DO use “RSPO-certified palm oil? ” Youch! Rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing palm oil?! There is No such thing as sustainable Palm oil from Indonesia and Malaysia, you do know that? The RSPO, which is run be the very companies who are destroying the rainforest, is merely a greenwashing organization for those companies looking for phony PR cover for their activities. Very disappointed. And will need to report on this on my blog.

Dr Bronner’s soaps uses Palm oil from a sustainable operation from Ghana.

They sent this back:

Thanks for the info. We’ll definitely look into it and push our suppliers to find new sources. We’re a small company and always looking to improve.


Let’s hope they do better.  Until then I’ll stick with Dr. Bronner’s.  You know they’re good on palm oil when they brag about it on their website.  I had lunch with a high-level Bronner’s exec last year for a possible job — believe me, they are fully aware of the palm oil issue — that’s why they use this Ghana farm in Africa.  It’s a win-win for all.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Is Laïcité Deterring Terrorism Or Aiding France’s Fight Against It?



Another quarter, another Stanford class, and another short academic paper that is completely off-topic from this blog (and another A).

“Our country is at war.”

— President Francois Hollande[1]

  1. Introduction

France, from all outward appearances, appears to be a country under siege. Since the Charlie Hebdo attack in January 2015, there have been over 200 deaths attributed to extremist Islamic terrorism in France. There is little doubt that the Hyper Cacher, Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, and Nice attacks caused understandable anxiety in an already anxious nation before even the latest brutal killing of an 85 year-old Catholic priest (before his congregation) in Normandy further shocked the country’s raw nerves. To many observers and commentators, terrorism has simply become a way of life in France as citizens come to realize that terrorism only achieves its barbaric intentions if they allow it to “terrorize our minds.”[2]

Despite this rise in terrorist-related deaths in the country, France, paradoxically, is also on the forefront of increased counter-terrorism efforts.[3] It is historically notable that “France was the first Western country struck on its soil from state-sponsored terrorism in the Middle East,” namely by Algerian nationals in the 1950s and Palestinians in the 1970s.[4] Consequently, its counter-terrorism activities while controversial – longtime domestic spying on citizens (that pre-dates the U.S. Bush Administration), aggressive prosecutions, dedicated investigators, and “intrusive” law enforcement – have “continuously adapted its judicial system and intelligence forces to the terrorist threat it faces”[5]

But there is a quieter, subtler weapon in France’s counter-terrorism arsenal that is no less sweeping in scope. It doesn’t require the sub-rosa intrusion and surveillance into the rights of its citizens, increased armed patrols, or activist judges to be effective. Rather, with a simple stroke of the pen, on December 9, 1905, France introduced laïcité into law via the Law of Separation of Churches and State (although the concept dates back to the French Revolution and its severance of ties between the monarchy and the Catholic Church). Roughly translated as “French secularity,” laïcité is “aimed at fostering a post-religious society.”[6]  As such, not only does this law forbid the practice of Islam in France today, it per se curtails the outward expression of ALL religions in the political and social institutions of the French state.  Clearly, as its history teaches, laïcité was never intentionally adopted to combat the very real threat of the Islamic State (“ISIS) of today.  Rather, the current crackdown on any forms of public practices of Islam (or Christianity, or Judaism, for that matter) would be a natural and “bonus” by-product of this secular ideal that so powerfully holds a grip on contemporary French society.

But how effective has laïcité specifically been in France’s war against ISIS’ Gaulic reign of terror?  Does it curtail the deadlier impulses of extremist religions (ideally Islam) by forbidding ALL such public displays of any religious expression or worship?  Or does laïcité foster repression, reveal long-held antagonisms, and unearth historical hatred toward Islam, in general?  Could laïcité force religious worship indoors, underground and into the shadows?  Does it foment budding terrorists’ own internal demons to lash-out at the West’s presumed secularization?

This paper will attempt to offer an answer to this conundrum. Part I has given us a brief introduction to the aim of laïcité. Part II will briefly examine the argument for laïcité vis-à-vis Islamic extremism as seen in the new wave of terrorism in ISIS. Part III will briefly delve into the case against it.  By examining this question, we hope to get a better understanding of laïcité and whether or not France’s rise in terrorism is an unintended consequence of this historic and uniquely French principle of free expression.

  1. II. The Case for Laïcité

Laïcité is a policy that is full of contradictions. It protects free expression by prohibiting free expression, at least in public. It attempts to be neutral as to religions but really was, at its inception, an agreement in a Christian country among mainly Christians.”[7] It “refers to the freedom of citizens and of public institutions from the influence of organized religions”,[8] that is, ALL religions, without (allegedly) concentrating on any one particular religion.

In short, “Laïcité has become the first religion of the Republic.”[9]  It’s based on lofty, egalitarian principles of freedom of conscience, strict separation between religion and state, the freedom to (privately) exercise any of the faiths one may choose, and banning ‘conspicuous religious symbols, such as crosses, stars of David, and yarmulkes.[10] To French President Hollande, it presents “a single, unified ‘peuple français’—a fraternité and an egalité that renders everyone the same.”[11] Ideally, by creating a society that is free of divisions it also deters its natural aggressions and strife.  To Hollande, “The concept of a secular state is ‘nonnegotiable,’ he said, calling laïcité ‘a guarantee for France ‘against threats both internal and external.’”[12]

Many commentators believe that laïcité has helped the nation face its distinct challenges of assimilating and/or integrating five million Muslims into the country.  Some of the data appear to bear this out.  In recent polls, 76% of the French have a favorable view of Muslims, which is higher than in both Germany (69%) and Britain (72%).[13] Laïcité, then, “has acquired so much mystique as to be practically an ideology, a timeless norm that defines Frenchness.”[14]

Some of France’s politicians, most notably on the right, are staunch supporters of laïcité and it is deep rootedness in France’s social, political and cultural fabric. Marion Marechal Le Pen’s National Front organization, which is against the current wave of immigration and allegedly linked to xenophobic issues, asserted that her party was, for all intents and purposes, secular in every way, even if Le Pen’s rhetoric leaned-forward into downright Islamophobia (and, undeniably pro-Christian).[15]

There is an almost idyllic vision to laïcité that attempts to unite what appears to be a rapidly-dividing country. Its quest?  “In public, you don’t have a religion. You’re just a citizen of the Republic.”[16]  At its highest, most idealistic level, its aim is that “secularism is a guarantee for France against internal and external threats and influences.” [17]

Such efforts can’t help but have a net positive, however small, in efforts to force a French identity. Indeed, after Charlie Hebdo, France announced new measures directed squarely at reinforcing these secular values in French schools after the attack “exposed serious cultural rifts between children in heavily immigrant communities and others in classrooms throughout the country.”[18]  Therefore, these renewed efforts to focus on the uniqueness of being French had some positive impact.  Teachers were getting new training, they increased lessons on morality and civics, and included the singing of the “La Marseillaise” in revamped classroom activities.[19]

Obviously, laïcité has done some good.  At least in the form of national unity.

III. The Case Against Laïcité

Despite the national appeal of laïcité, it also has its detractors.  Most of its criticisms derive from its apparent anachronisms. It’s a relic from a bygone era when France was predominately a monocultural nation that attempted to protect government from the influences of France’s once-dominant and untrustworthy Catholic Church.  What may have worked for a Catholic society to simply not allow Catholicism into the cultural and political realm of everyday French life is unsuited to a multicultural world where Muslim immigration to the European Union is rampant, especially in the new wave of immigration from the Middle East’s current sectarian and civil wars.  And if there was some practical need to stamp a burgeoning France with a national identity after historical events of the nineteenth century, that necessity seems ill-suited to European Union and other contemporary events today.

To Muslims who are practitioners of Sharia law, the notion of church and state separation is unfathomable. One critic pointed out that laïcité “is unintelligible and even shocking to Muslims, who view it as ‘an injunction to abandon their religion.’”[20]  Others go even further:  “Today, with the concept being used in the service of Islamophobia, it is especially important to knock laïcité down from its elevated status.”[21]

So laïcité has perhaps outlived its usefulness and become contemporarily abusive.  Instead of keeping France secular, it seems as if laïcité is being used as a sword against Islam, in particular, rather than a shield to (all) religious influence, in general.  This Islamophobia has become even more pronounced after the Charlie Hebdo and Nice attacks.  (Although there are some encouraging signs of national harmony in the rallies staged after the July 2016 Normandy Catholic priest killing.)

To some, laïcité largely prevents intensely religious people from practicing their sincerely-held religion in France.  To French Muslims in particular, “Today, laïcité is really, really dangerous for people who practicing [sic[ their religion.”[22]  Clearly, this cannot be good for the nation itself.  Unpleasant personal decisions need to be made that drive a wedge between religions and other societal institutions.  For instance, religious practitioners have to uncomfortably choose between workplace requirements (i.e., removing hijabs) and the free exercise of one’s beliefs.  This naturally forces some to either toe a moral/religious line at work or leave the country altogether in order to practice their faith.[23]  To go even further, laïcité, has become both de facto and de jure “secular totalitarianism.”[24]


  1. Laïcité is Hurting France’s Fight Against Terrorism

In a multi-cultural world, tolerance seems to be the axiom, not totalitarianism. And it’s not as if Muslim countries are sending Islamic warriors to France to fight Western secularism.  Rather, this latest wave of terrorists are from within; European home-grown “radicalized French youth, who…are already disaffected [, opportunistic] and are seeking a cause….”[25]  At the heart of this issue is a “cultural explanation,” that is, the “war of civilizations” theory, that, if implemented, is comparable to the medieval Crusades in its “us v. them” mentality.[26]  Suppressing an already disaffected segment of French society from their own religious expression will only yield yet more strife and discord.  If anything, the young terrorists are repulsed by the marginalization of their fiery brand Islam in everyday French life among already integrated or assimilated generations of Muslims.  “The key in this revolt is the absence of the transmission of a religion that is culturally integrated.”[27]  Accordingly, Like Oedipus’ own dynamic repression, rebellious, homegrown French terrorists “exhibit…desire for revenge for their suppressed frustrations.”[28]

George W. Bush, with characteristic simplicity, offered his official explanation for the rise in terrorism ushered in by the 9/11 attacks. He argued it was because “They hate our freedoms:  our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other”, and that, “This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.” [29]  But even without offering an answer to who “they” are, and just whom to attack, his minimalistic logic is flatly wrong, at least in France.  Perhaps one of the reasons the homegrown terrorists grow to hate “us” in the West is precisely because of their own lack of freedom of speech and religion; especially as that concept is practiced under laïcité in France.  Why add more fuel to the fire?  After all, “they are reclaiming on their own terms, an identity that, in their eyes their [assimilated/integrated] parents have debased.”[30]

But it’s a two-way street, as well. If France is to be open-minded and accepting of the differences between its myriad ethnicities, religions and cultures, those zealously-religious citizens too must be more open-minded, charitable and accepting to those that do not agree with them.  “[I]increased tolerance of difference would also help strengthen the notion that we must tolerate what some people find disagreeable, like the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.”[31]

If such a thawing in the multicultural war is to take place in France, let the government act first. Plainly, it’s not as if laïcité prevented Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, or Nice in the first place.  Subsequently, It’s time to toss laïcité, for all its originally-intended national unity aspirations, into the proverbial dustbin of history, or at least reform it for a new age. By so doing, it would demonstrate to the doubters, right wingers, and even the budding, young terrorists themselves, that, with apologies to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, there’s nothing to fear but the fear of intolerance itself.  If a country as sophisticated, erudite and cosmopolitan as France can’t be tolerant of differences, what can be said of the U.S.?  Why not remove one philosophical weapon from the terrorists’ arsenal?  Because whatever’s going on now sadly is not working.


[1] July 26, 2016, commenting after the latest terrorist attack in his country, this time a priest murdered by two Islamist extremists serving the Islamic State.

[2] See, e.g., Gopnick, Adam, “A Real Wave of Terror in France,” THE NEW YORKER, July 27, 2016, available at:

[3] Alduy, Cecile, “France in a Time of War,” classroom lecture, July 25, 2016.

[4] Perelman, Marc, “How the French Fight Terror,” FOREIGN POLICY, January 6, 2006, available at:

[5] Ibid.

[6] Winkler, Elizabeth, “Is it Time for France to Abandon Laïcité?” THE NEW REPUBLIC, available at:

[7] Roger Cukierman, the director of the Representative Council of French Jewish Organizations, quoted in Erlanger, Steven, and Freytas-Gaburafeb, Kimoco, “Old Tradition of Secularism Clashes With France’s New Reality,’ NEW YORK TIMES, February 5, 2015, available at:

[8] Winkler, supra, note 6.

[9] French Political Scientist Dominique Moïsi, quoted in Erlanger, Steven, and Freytas-Gaburafeb, Kimoco, supra, note 7.

[10] Nougayrede, Natalie, “Now More Than Ever It’s Time to Stand up for France’s Brand of Secularism,” THE GUARDIAN, Dec. 12, 2015, available at:

[11] Winkler, supra, note 6.

[12] Erlanger and Freytas-Gaburafeb, supra, note 7.

[13] Cited in Nougayrede, supra, note 8.

[14] Ibid.

[15] See, e.g., id., Le-Pen said, “If French Muslims wish to practice their faith, they need to accept the fact that they are doing so on soil that is culturally Christian.  This means they cannot have the same rank as the Christian religion.”

[16] Beardsley, Eleanor, quoted on “All Things Considered, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, March 4, 2015, available at:

[17] President Hollande, quoted in “François Hollande Vows to Defend France’s Republican Ideals,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, February 5, 2015, available at:

[18] de la Baume, Maia, “Paris Announces Plans To Promote Secular Values,” THE NEW YORK TIMES, January 22, 2015, available at:

[19] See id.

[20] Sansal, Boualem, “La France laique, adversaire majeur des islamistes,” LE FIGARO, November 15, 2015, quoted in Winkler, supra, note 6.

[21] Birchall, Ian, “The Wrong Kind of Secularism,” JACOBIN, November 19, 2015.available at:

[22] French-Algerian law student Anisa Enni quoted in ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, supra, note 16.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Benoist Apparu, a legislator and former secretary of state for housing, quoted in Winkler, supra, note 6.

[25] Roy, Olivier, “France’s Oedipal Islamist Complex,” FOREIGN AFFAIRS, January 7, 2016, available at:

[26] Ibid.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] George W. Bush, speech before a joint session of Congress to the U.S. nation, September 20, 2001, available at:

[30] Roy, supra, note 25.

[31] Winkler, supra, note 6.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Quest Bars – MORE Palm Oil




Bad environmental news is everywhere.  Global warming, floods, famines, deforestation.  And palm oil.  News comes out this week that there is a strong indication that orangutans will go extinct in 10 years if we continue our use of palm oil, etc., at the current rate!  Ten freaking years!  (I’ve been on this palm oil campaign for about 4 years already.)


So imagine my continued horror when I find yet another snack item with palm oil in my employer’s kitchen.  (It seems like virtually everything in this kitchen is marred with palm oil.)  Well, this time it was Quest bars.

So I wrote my usual death, deforestation and destruction palm oil email.  Here’s the response:

Thank you for your email.  My name is XXXX, from Customer Support and I am here to assist you.  Unfortunately, we cannot disclose the name of the supplier but guaranteed, our palm oil is RSPO certified, responsibly and sustainably sourced to protect our environment. Palm oil helps keep the bars softer longer and enhances their taste. We chose palm oil for use in Quest Bars because palm oil has one of the most stable lipid profiles of any fat source available. Fat stability is something we value because of its profound effect on your metabolism. We have gone through very in-depth processes to verify that the palm oils we use are of high quality and are not oxidized or damaged.  Thank you for your inquiry. I appreciate you taking the time to contact us. Feel free to contact us any time.  I wish you well, no matter what your Quest may be!All the best,
Quest Customer Support
+1 888-212-0601
Follow us on Instagram @QuestNutritionSupport!

So I had to get a jab in and wrote back:

Yes, more corporations hiding behind the RSPO, which is nothing but a “greenwashing” organization run by the palm oil companies (and the bought-off WWF).

That does NOT make me happy.


I will post a suitable blog piece on my anti-palm oil blog. 
Man, for the days before palm oil.  The Earth would be a lot healthier, not to mention, orangutans, elephants, rhinos, indigenous peoples, enslaved workers, and the climate.

The very nice customer service rep responded again:

I hear you and I will gladly pass your message into our higher management for review.

We, here at Quest are very open to suggestions and feedback since that is how we can improve our products and our system. That is why, hearing feedback directly from people, like you, is very valuable for us.

Please let me know if there is any way I can further assist you.

Have a good day!

All the best,
Quest Customer Support

So that happened.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Haribo – Best Gummy Bears Aren’t on Palm Oil


haribo 2

My girlfriend bought a huge bag of Haribo gummy bears recently.  As I dug into them — they really are about the best slightly petrified gelatinous mush of non-essential calories one can buy, I turned the bag over.  The second freakin’ ingredient is palm kernel oil.  Who the F knew?!  Even here?

At my wit’s end with the ubiquity of palm oil, I posted my usual email on Haribo’s Twitter and Facebook pages.  I received NO response.

Then I looked, and the RSPO — that toothless, corrupt “fox watching the hen house” public relations organization that the palm oil industry uses to greenwash their industry — claims on its website that it’s a member.  Who cares?!  That means nothing today.

Then I did a little more digging and saw that something called the Woodland Zoo claims Haribo is part of a group of…

 members of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and are committed to using certified sustainable palm oil. Please support the companies that are doing their best to make a difference for wildlife.

Obviously, this is a bunch of horseshit.  “Certified sustainable palm oil” as a claim is as worthless as the paper it’s written on at this point in time.


So I sent an email to the Haribo info email address.

I’ll publish it when I get a response.  If I get a response.

But for now, NO MORE Haribo products for me.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Justin’s Doesn’t Get the RSPO & Could Be Helping Cause Deforestation


Another palm oil “horror” story from my employer’s kitchen.   The company means well:  to give employees some snacks to refresh them through their workdays.  However, the company doesn’t exactly do their due diligence on the sourcing of those snacks — or the internal ingredients.

Case in point (again):  Justin’s peanut butter products.  It’s supposed to be this whole organic-y, touchy-feely, nothing-but-peanuts-and-butter slice-of-heaven.  But the second ingredient on the label is freakin’ palm oil.  So I circled it on the label with a big black marker and left it on the kitchen counter for quizzical co-workers to wonder, “Hmmm, why was ‘palm oil’ circled here?”

Then I dashed off another death and destruction email to Justin’s Facebook page, loudly and boldly for all to see (and reposted, and reposted, and again).  If you’re a regular reader of this infrequent blog, you know it involves accusing corporations of being complicit in the death, destruction, displacement, etc., that palm oil cultivation wroughts (is that a correct usage of that word?)

Here’s their well-intentioned but misinformed response. It’s the same canned rationale they tee-up proudly on their website.  (

Sustainable Sourced Palm Fruit Oil.


Our organic peanut butter cups are made with 100% organic palm oil that is sustainably sourced from South America and RSPO certified.

Our nut butter jars, squeeze packs and snack packs contain palm oil that was certified sustainable under the mass balance supply chain model by the RSPO.  Recently, this supplier’s certification expired. We proactively removed the sustainable callout from our label in recent months when we learned the certification was set to expire. We are diligently looking for a sustainably sourced, RSPO certified alternative and will continue to keep our website up-to-date with the latest ingredient information.


They clearly are well-intentioned.  All the greenie bells and whistles are on their website, from “Sustainability Initiatives” to “Giving Back” to “Compassion.”  But they put all of their eggs in the RSPO basket for easy cover.  And, as we know, the RSPO is no knight in shining armor.


Note too, that Justin’s says because their supplier’s “certification expired,” they specifically stopped labeling their products containing it as “sustainable.”  Makes sense, right?  Plaudits to them for having a sense of truth-in-advertising.  But if they’re no longer able to label it as “sustainable,” which from RSPO history it probably NEVER WAS in the first place (since it simply doesn’t yet likely exist (like a mystical unicorn)), and was explicitly drawn from “mass balance” programs (read: offsets), it sure-as-hell isn’t sustainable now.

So, Justin’s, we need to boycott you.  Sadly, deforestation is most probably occurring due to your direct actions.  Do better.  Be a leader.  Don’t buy “mass balance” palm oil.  Because that just means so-called “sustainable” palm oil is mixed with “traditional” palm oil.  Traditional probably meaning that rainforests were razed for agricultural purposes.

And to show just what’s at stake, look at this recent video I saw that shows sentient, soulful orangutans thinking and reasoning – and showing compassion. These precious creatures (along with rhinos, elephants, tigers — and indigenous humans) are being driven to displacement and extinction.  All for palm oil.  Cheap, dirty palm oil.



Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Boycott Paldo Foods: Silence is Telling

(Sorry for any formatting problems. The WordPress UI sucks; I tried to reformat it twenty-two (22?) times with only minimal results.)

In my never-ending quest to speak palm oil truth-to-power, my email campaign continues.  My employer’s kitchen is CHOCK-FULL of palm oil-laden products, much to my chagrin (hey, I can’t even get people to stop putting glass and plastic products in the trash!).

One such hugely-processed, quick-lunch meal available to our overworked Silicon Valley techno-geeks is Bowl Noodles, scraped together from palm oil and the dust, bugs and debris left on the factory floor, no doubt.  (Justin’s Peanut Butter, I’m coming for you next!).

Well, I wrote them my usual death and destruction palm oil email:

Your label indicates your company uses palm oil in its noodle soups. Please tell me from where your company sources its palm oil. Is it from certified sustainable sources as many other large companies are shifting toward using? Or is it contributing to the environmental damage occurring in South East Asia, South America, and Central Africa?
The unchecked demand for palm oil is destroying the world’s “lungs,” the last rainforests on earth. Indeed the demand for unsustainable palm oil leads to:
1). The destruction of rainforests;
2). The death (and torture) of critically endangered species who inhabit it, like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, pygmy elephant, etc.;
3). Displaces indigenous human inhabitats who depend on the rainforest for sustenance;
4). Enslaves of the poor in atrocious, oil plantation working conditions; 5). Exacerbates global warming greatly.
Does Paldo feel it is doing right for the world it is handing over to future generations?!



Nothing from them. So I wrote them again. And Again. Again.

Four (4!) Times I wrote them. No response. Their silence is telling.

So, BOYCOTT Paldo Products — and tell them why.

OK, thanks for listening to my rant.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

UPDATED 6/20/2016: Nutella (Ferrero) One of the Good Guys?!

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme

Deutsch: Ein Glas Nutella-Nussnougatcreme (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

UPDATED 6/20/2016:

Just bumped into an extremely smart co-worker in the hallway who told me she was bummed that Nutella is full of palm oil.  I told her that, actually, Nutella, despite not using palm oil until about 2006 or so, is one of the good guys on the issue.  I then ran to my laptop to double-check my source on this.  Sure enough there’s this from Greenpeace on Ferrero’s palm oil initiatives:

Ferrero evaluated by Greenpeace’s palm oil scorecard and comes out as a leader

Greenpeace International has released its latest scorecard, and Ferrero has been categorized as ‘on track’ to ending deforestation for its sustainable palm oil efforts. Having surveyed 14 global consumer goods manufacturers with ‘no deforestation’ policies in place, Greenpeace has analyzed how they are progressing in the implementation of their policies and their direct impact on the ground. Ferrero, in addition to being identified as the only company to be able to trace nearly 100% of its palm oil back to the plantations, was recognized as one of the leading companies with a strong responsible sourcing and industry reform strategy. This affirms the positive and effective progress of Ferrero’s long term and multifaceted palm oil strategy, through which Ferrero is dedicated to only sourcing palm oil that aims to protect forests, their biodiversity and people who get a living from them. As part of this strategy, Ferrero launched its Palm Oil Charter in 2013, it achieved its objective to have products with 100% sustainable RSPO certified as segregated palm oil at the end of 2014, and became a member of the POIG in 2015. Ferrero will continue on its journey towards the full sustainability of its palm oil supply chain, engaged with industry and non-profit organizations through responsible and transparent actions, giving its relentless contribution to the sustainable innovation of the palm oil industry.

Although we wish Nutella would just go back to its original recipe and NOT use ANY palm oil (see below trail), at least they’re leaders in certified, traceable, sustainable palm oil use.


UPDATED:  6/23/2015

[If you’re not interested in the long history I’ve had with the Nutella people, skip write to the bottom’s latest update.]

The second ingredient listed in Nutella is rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing palm oil! The second freaking one! The company that makes it, Ferrero, is supposedly part of the RSPO, which we know is a toothless greenwashing vehicle for greedy corporations (for the most part). Here’s Ferrero’s response from their website to the palm oil issue :

As a member of the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil, Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.

That’s it!? What if a controlled plantation was developed by first chopping down HCV rainforest, murdering orangutans, displacing humans and increasing global warming? Oh, well that’s not answered by “controlled plantations” now is it?

Well this is not enough. A lawmaker is being slammed in France for what he’s devised: a 400% tax on palm oil in Nutella, which is virtually the symbol of French chocolate guilty pleasure!

There’s this from the Malaysian palm oil lobby:

“The proposal is based on inaccurate claims that palm oil is bad for health and nutrition, and that Malaysia does not respect the environment,” the council said in a statement received here.

Oh really? You mean Malaysia DOES respect the environment? There’s plenty of dead orangutans, clear-cut forests, corrupt government officials, and drained peat swamps to attest to the contrary.

UPDATE: Well, the palm oil lobby — and France’s uniquely weird gastronomic obsession to embrace this ridiculously fatty, palm oil-drenched product — led to the French Senate voting this tax measure down. But, hopefully, the publicity that this proposed tax brought on the palm oil controversy paid off infinitely.

Again, palm oil was NEVER in the original Nutella recipes. So why cling to this dirty, dangerous vegetable oil now in its recipe? Because it’s cheap — cheap because seemingly all of Indonesia and Malaysia is being deforested to plant it.

Nutella gets a C grade for its shoddy sustainability practices. Go here:

UPDATE: I want to give credit where it’s due. Nutella is trying, apparently. Here’s this from Ferrero’s website.

PALM OIL: Ferrero uses palm oil in Nutella for texture and taste purposes.

It is important to understand that Ferrero sources its Palm oil from Malaysia and Papua New Guinea, not from Indonesia where extensive deforestation is taking place.

Since 2005, Ferrero is also a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil organisation (RSPO) ( and our commitment is to source 100% certified sustainable palm oil by 2014. (Emphasis mine.)

Detailed information can be found in the Social Responsibility section of our website located at:

Although 2014 couldn’t come fast enough for the critically endangered species, there is a sustainable palm oil industry in Papua New Guinea NOW. Let’s just hope that Ferrero’s getting most of their palm oil from there until they can source 100% certified sustainable palm oil from elsewhere.

And RSPO membership/certification can’t be entirely trusted either. In fact, many companies just use their RSPO membership to greenwash their environmental destructiveness. Here’s this from Rainforest Action Network:

But the sad truth is, many of the companies that use these[RSPO] labels are in fact still causing rainforest destruction and the clearance and draining of carbon-rich peatlands that release massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

So let’s not be too easy on Nutella/Ferraro just yet. Let them prove that they’re buying sustainable palm oil now, and not just claiming empty promises.

UPDATED:  6/14/2013:  What’s with depending on the kindness of Malaysia in thinking that just because it’s grown there that no rainforests are being chopped down for  palm oil?  Maybe it’s not as bad as in Sumatra or Kalimantan (Indonesia), but Malaysian Borneo has its share of rainforest-destroying, orangutan-killing baggage too.  I just watched the first part of a rather dubious series running now on Fox Business Channel called, “Palm Oil, Nature’s Blessing or Nature’s Curse.”  It was a serious greenwashing of Malaysia’s palm oil business.  Only Malaysian stakeholders were interviewed, like the local Forestry official, the palm oil lobbyist, a business owner, etc.  In the first episode shown last Saturday, I did not see one NGO official interviewed.  Find show times here:

One palm oil goon even cast suspicions on the apparently repeated use of the number “300” in regard to: 1) the number of football field-sized swaths of rainforest that are allegedly cleared each day for palm oil plantations in Malaysia; and 2) the number of orangutans killed in Malaysia in the past year (or something).  His reasoning?  This use of “3oo” coincided far too much with the “300” Spartans that held off the invading Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC, as featured in the CGI boxoffice blockbuster “300.”  I mean seriously?  That’s all you got?

UPDATED 11/21/2013:  Here’s an article about how Ferraro and Nestle has gone further than other confectioners.  That’s good news.  If only the others would follow before it’s too late.

UPDATED 1/9/2015 – FINAL!?

It’s been awhile since I posted, but this seems like some genuinely decent good news.  Though I am always skeptical, the source (Aussie-based Palm Oil Investigations) is pretty good, so let’s rejoice in some good (though apparently confusing) palm oil news for once.

Enjoy your Nutella more with this knowledge!

Congratulations Ferrero!!

Palm Oil Investigations report Ferrero have achieved their 2014 goal to source all of the palm oil in Ferrero products (like household favourite Nutella), from ethical and sustainable sources.

This means 100% segregated Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil certified palm oil.

Confused about what exactly that is? We were too, and that’s because there is little regulation in the palm oil industry, so let’s take a closer look.

The confusion begins because even if a company is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), this does not necessarily mean that they are purchasing certified sustainable palm oil.

It means they have made a commitment to EVENTUALLY purchase sustainable palm oil, in most cases that commitment is to be in place by 2015.

So, it can be difficult when buying a product to know for sure that product uses certified sustainable palm oil.

Before you buy any product with RSPO labelling, you should look to see if it has the word CERTIFIED included. Furthermore, you should ask the brand exactly how much of the palm oil they source is certified sustainable palm oil, as sometimes a brand will mix certified and uncertified palm oil together.

Ideally, labelling indicating certified palm oil should look like this:

  1. -100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil

  2. -100% segregated

  3. – And, although it is not compulsory for a company to use the RSPO certification logo, it may also be featured. If a different logo was displayed, you could assume the certification claims to be untrue.

Caveat:  Palm Oil Investigations doesn’t agree with boycotts and pretty much supports the RSPO’s Green Certificates Program.  So….

UPDATE 6/17/2015:  Lots of shit flying around today about Nutella in the wake of the French Ecology Minister trumpeting a boycott of palm oil yesterday.   See link here:

Well, one orangutan charity activist got all hot and bothered — SHE DOES NOT agree with boycotts in general and immediately came to Ferrero’s aide.  For what it’s worth, here’s a snippet from the article she posted:

In its latest report, available here, Ferrero announced that it had gone beyond certification to map the sources of its palm all the way back to the plantation. During 2014, TFT assisted Ferrero with this mapping process. As of today, 98% by volume of the palm oil used in Ferrero products can be traced back to plantations where the fruit was grown

TFT and Ferrero have also been working together with palm suppliers to implement improvements in worker conditions and commitments to No Deforestation and No Exploitation, and to further include smallholder farmers. Currently, 5.15% of Ferrero’s palm is supplied from approximately 27.5 thousand smallholders; Ferrero has committed to working with TFT’s new programme Rurality to help empower farmer leadership and rural innovation.

And Greenpeace weighed in too:

And look at this:  Hot off the press, a retraction from the French minister:

[The French Ecology Minister] backtracked on Wednesday afternoon with a tweet offering “one thousand apologies”. She also said she had agreed to flag up the “progress” made by the brand, which has vowed to use palm oil only from certified sustainable sources.


Curious about all the palm oil fuss with Ferrero, I did a little research to endeavor to find out when they first started using palm oil in the first place.

BOOM I!  For instance, in Australia, Ferrero didn’t even start using it until 2006.  This would seem to follow for the U.S. too since that is when trans fats were first given the heave-ho here.

nutella_website_trans_fat                                               (From an old Nutella Australia webpage via the Wayback Machine.

Too bad Ferrero doesn’t just go back to using something other than palm oil, which is high in saturated fat anyway.  But I guess that’s going to be tough with the unintended consequences of the elimination of trans fats in the US recently (and back in 2006).  But my point remains:  palm oil was NEVER even part of the recipe, apparently, until about nine years ago!  Other than the whole trans fat bullshit, they fixed what wasn’t broken.  (Hmmm, wonder if economics (cheap palm oil) played a part in Ferrero’s decision too!)

In all fairness, I called Ferrero to confirm this 2006 palm oil shift and they told me that it was not correct and to “Not trust everything I read on the internet.”  However, it was THEIR OWN website!  I told them I could not trust self-serving rationalizations by palm oil users, despite the fact that Ferrero is in the vanguard of using sustainable palm oil.

BOOM II!  I just confirmed that palm oil was NOT in US Nutella as recently as 2005.  Here’s what it says on an archived webpage.  They used PEANUT oil!

The peanut oil that Nutella contains goes through a hot-solvent extraction process which takes out all the proteins, so you are left with pure peanut oil which is generally non-allergenic. Only oil prepared by the hot solvent extraction process that is commonly used in the United States is known to be free of protein.

In fact, thanks to the Wayback Machine the first available webpage that mentions palm oil isn’t until March 2009!

Is the modified palm oil in Nutella® hydrogenated?

No. The modified palm oil is a mix of the liquid and solid oil naturally extracted from the fruit of the palm. The mix is adjusted to assure the best consistency for easy spreading. The process also reduces the level of saturated fat. Per serving Nutella® has 0 gram transfat (see label).

Does Ferrero support responsible palm oil use?

Yes. As a member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil), Ferrero only uses palm oil which is extracted from controlled plantations in Malaysia.

Posted in Uncategorized | 16 Comments