Olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce—all come to mind as essential ingredients in a typical pantry. But there’s one ingredient found in many grocery items and fast foods that we usually don’t hear about: palm oil.
Palm oil is used in a surprising variety of supermarket products: pizza dough, cookies, candy, cereal, margarine, instant noodles, bread, pastries, and ice cream, as well as lipstick, lotion, candles, detergents, and shampoo. The list goes on and on.
Several factors explain palm oil’s popularity, not the least of which is low cost. But the low dollar cost hides a high environmental price: the rapid loss of the rainforest. In fact, every hour, palm oil harvesting wipes out more than 550 acres of the rainforest—the equivalent of 300 soccer fields.
98% of Indonesia’s Forest May Be Destroyed by 2022
Companies are clear cutting and burning forests to make way for palm plantations, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia where 90% of the world’s palm oil is grown. The region is quickly losing CO2-absorbing forests and emerging as the world’s third largest polluter of greenhouse gasses after the U.S. and China. Deforestation also means loss of natural habitat for vulnerable species, including the orangutan, which is not only critically endangered but at high risk of extinction.
Balancing Sustainability with Economic Development
How do we strike a balance between people and planet? Put another way, can we have our pizza and eat it too? We think so, because there are sustainable ways to produce palm oil. And we are proactively supporting that sustainable supply chain. Bank of the West, with parent company BNP Paribas, has implemented a palm oil policy that requires companies to meet strict standards on forest protection and emissions in order to receive financing from our bank. In addition to our own policies that ensure Bank of the West is doing its part to build a better future, as part of BNP Paribas we are a member of a global organization setting standards for sustainable palm oil supply chain, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.