Palm oil and Nutella

Ségolène Royal, France’s ecology minister says Nutella is made using palm oil, which is contributing to deforestation, and urged Ferrero to make the spread with ‘other ingredients’. “Oil palms have replaced trees, and therefore caused considerable damage to the environment,” she explained. The full article is available here:
When I read this news, I was glad: there is an environment minister who is dedicated to protection of nature, and not only guided by political interests.
But I was wrong. The next day came the cold shower: Ségolene Royal issued her apology after the Italian company which makes Nutella said its palm oil is sourced in a responsible way.
The full article is available here:
My questions are:
– Who determines what is a responsible way?
– What palm oil can be replaced? The production of these other ingredients is polluating or not?
– Is there a list of companies that use palm oil?

5 thoughts on “Palm oil and Nutella

  1. Michael White

    Palm oil is used in so many products that listing the companies which do not use it might be shorter!

    Nutella is weird: it is a very popular snack in France & Italy ~ I’d never tried it until I lived in Sicily.

  2. Janos

    First of all, a warm welcome to our new member’s first post on our website! I’m glad to see that we have a new fresh voice, with a profile picture following hopefully.

    Indeed the french minister’s step up was unusual. I’m sorry that she soon downplayed the importance of her own statement with an apology. Perhaps she had been forced to do so.

    Palm oil producers in respond to growing protest from conservationists and to whitewash their activities, invented the RSPO – Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, and their PR activities is focused to use this organization framework for ‘green-labeling’ their product. (It is worth to read the Criticism on wikipedia.)

    Actually the name Sustainable Palm Oil is quite right because only the (production of) palm oil and the profit of producers is sustainable. From ecological viewpoint it has nothing to do with sustainability due to the fact that the process of producing palm oil is always started with clear cutting the pristine vegetation to create space for the monoculture plantation. So literally all the species (flora and fauna) is obliterated.

    Sadly, humans are so selfish especially when it is about their bellies, so that it is easy to forget environmental considerations. I stopped eating nutella since I’ve learned it has palm oil in it.

    Answering your questions is not easy. Having around 80 million new human inhabitants on this planet yearly, there is no quantity of palm oil which could not be sold. For this very reason clearcutting forest everywhere, where they still exist, is ongoing in India, Indonesia, Central Africa and South America to pave the way for new plantations.

    Responsible way would be to immediately halt any clear cutting and to say for example, that already existing and producing palm oil tree plantations can stay where they are, but new ones are not allowed anymore. Hence the price of the palm oil would increase significantly, reflecting partially the damage caused by its production on the planetary biosphere.

    Palm oil substitutes, such as conventional sunflower oil and others are available on the market since a long time. Actually they also produced in monocultures but it is there since long ago and we just have got used to it. Nevertheless those monoculture plantations started with similar clear-cut. The only difference is that for example sunflower is cultivated in semi-arid, continental climatic zones, as opposed to palm oil trees which can be grown in the topics where the abundance of species is by far much higher.

    I am not aware of any list of companies using palm oil but with some research and dedication it can be created, and companies listed could be ranked based on various aspects, such as volume of consumption, sources of purchase, etc.

    Any thoughts on that from others? Maybe?

  3. Michael White

    Yes, welcome Tunde, and thanks for the prompt Janos.

    Good point with sunflower oil, also the seeds are a popular snack.

    I’d first considered the issue of palm oil over 20 years ago when I was studying gibbons (Hylobates lar). These primates are fruit-eaters and only live in primary forest. They move by swinging through the canopy (locomotion is called brachiation) and are poorly adapted to moving on the ground. The monoculture plantations are a major barrier for them. The gibbons are territorial, defending their patch by singing, and move around their area to maximise fruit availability. What is interesting is that after around 6 years or so the parents will eject both sexes of their offspring (daughters will initially look after younger siblings to help the mother) ~ so they need to be able to find a new place for themselves: again, the monoculture prevents this dispersal.

    I was also shocked to figure out that Palmolive (soap manufacturer) actually has palm oil & olive oil in its name!

  4. Venkatasamy Rama Krishna

    It is quite alarming how politicians are always unable to approach a problem from the correct angle. Ségolène Royal makes an off-the-cuff statement without having given any prior consideration to the implications, then have to swallow it back. There are several other ways she could have addressed the palm oil – deforestation problem, but never thought about them.
    Action and Reaction, I would say Janos. The perpetrators of deforestation and destruction of habitats for profit had to come up with a justification (the reaction) againsts mounting criticisms and opposition (the actions), so they invented a body that would absolve them from their sins, the RSPO. And what is shocking is that the RSPO is supported by several international conservation organisations. Corporations will always win, it seems.
    Also reminds me of the WOC, with all the giants of the mining and extractive industry banding to justify causing havoc to ocean floors for profit, and yet again absolved by several international conservation organisations.
    And let us not forget the BBOP, and the infamous “no net loss” theory.

Leave a Reply