Noticed this product in my company’s employee common kitchen. Looked at the ingredients. Of course it contains palm oil. Off went my usual palm oil email to the company, demanding to know from where they source it.
I didn’t get a response for a week or two. I wrote again – this time twice in the same 5 minutes. I received a response rather quickly. Here it is:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us here at Smart Balance. We always appreciate hearing from consumers who care enough to reach out to us with their comments or questions.
We at Smart Balance are committed to ensuring the palm fruit oil used in our products comes from environmentally and socially responsible sources. All of our palm fruit oil suppliers are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, which is the leading organization in developing and implementing global standards for sustainable palm oil production. Additionally, we have implemented a program to purchase Green Palm Certificates on a monthly basis to cover our palm oil usage, which will help fund the growth and expansion of sustainable palm programs. We recognize this effort takes time, and we are committed to working with the industry and with organizations to develop long-term sustainable solutions.
Your Friends at Smart Balance
Naturally, this pat, easy, lazy corporate answer did not please me and doesn’t let them off the hook in any way or by any means. I answered quickly:
This is what we palm oil activists call “greenwashing.”The RSPO is a joke as are Green Certs. Neither cuts down on deforestation nor does it protect critically endangered species, such as the orangutan.I will post to my blog and advise all to boycott your products.Thank you for doing the utmost minimum!
I’ll be interested if they respond. And will post it.
We’re more sophisticated about palm oil now, than we were in, say 2004. Saying you’re a member of RSPO means NOTHING as we’ve seen time and time again. And purchasing Green Palm Certificates (or Book and Claim) doesn’t mean much at all either because it’s sort of like a cap and trade scheme (which still allows pollution, it just shifts the burden of clean up to others in exchange for $$) — it allows some forests to still be cut down in return for other plantations’ promise to keep their operations sustainable. It has not stopped the deforestation or the killing of the orangutans, tigers and elephants.
Look a this critique of Green Palm Certificates:
Greenpalm certificates — a program operated by Book & Claim, UK — was a scheme created when the RSPO was first established in 2004 by member company AarhusKarlshamn Group (AAK) as an option to support the production of sustainable palm oil. At the time, it made sense for palm oil users to buy into the scheme to show their support of sustainable palm oil.
In the eight years since the RSPO was formed, some of its members have taken great strides to work according to the organization’s principles and criteria to produce environmentally-sustainable palm oil. Producers including New Britain Palm Oil (NBPOL), Agropalma, Musim Mas, and Sime Darby have consistently met those standards, which are some of the toughest for vegetable oil production.
Some of the same producers have been quoted in recent months that the usefulness of Greenpalm Certificates is past its time. Nick Thompson, CEO of NBPOL, was especially critical of Greenpalm certificates in a statement made to Palm Oil Consumers Action group:
“Although we understand the theory behind Greenpalm certificate trading, we have always thought that because the associated claim is so weak, the value to any buyer would be correspondingly low and therefore represent too little incentive to the growers. This is exactly what has been happening and they now pretty much represent the price you pay for doing nothing and turning a blind eye! The value of certificates is pathetically low and the fact that such a massive percentage of Greenpalm certificates are being redeemed by a very small number of companies illustrates their lack of franchise in the market.”
Most participants are now realizing that mass balance is a much better way to go in that it allows critical players in a supply chain to understand just how close they are to being fully segregated. This means that when they get close to a tipping point (where the majority of the oil is actually certified sustainable palm oil, or CSPO), then it’s actually much easier for the supply chain to become fully segregated at very low cost. The costs of any segregation, then, really only apply when they have effectively become very small.
By contrast, in the opinions of POI and POCA, rather than encouraging this process, Greenpalm certificates just get in the way of traceable, efficient, and sustainable supply chains evolving. According to these organizations, Greenpalm is now an obstacle to a more sustainable industry rather than an aide.
Multinational brands, however, have been quick to jump on the opportunity to divert criticism with the use of this cheap alternative to physical sustainable palm oil. Costing approximately $3 per ton for palm oil or $20 per ton for palm kernel oil, it’s a cheap marketing alternative to physical sustainable palm oil, which runs at many times that cost depending on the product.
The consumer groups have challenged several brands before on their claims to be “sourcing sustainable palm oil” with the use of Greenpalm certificates.
“To me, its green-washing, plain and simple,” said LeAnn Fox from POCA. “ How can they claim to be sourcing sustainable palm oil when Greenpalm’s own website makes it very clear they can only claim to be supporting sustainable palm oil?”
Here’s the greenwashing from the RSPO’s own mouth: