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It’s the miracle ingredient in everything from biscuits to shampoo. But our dependence on palm oil has devastating environmental consequences.
Palm oil has become an miracle ingredient found in everything from our biscuits to our shampoos. But the world’s dependence on palm oil has devastating environmental consequences for the communities where it is grown and produced.
So what exactly is palm oil, why has the world become so dependent on it, and why is it so bad for the environment?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the African oil palm tree, and grows in warm and wet conditions.
It is the world’s most versatile vegetable oil and is cheap to grow and produce.
Palm oil has become popular as it can handle frying without spoiling, and blends well with other oils.
Its combination of different fats and consistency also makes it a popular ingredient in packaged baked goods and can be used as a natural preservative in processed foods.
It also can be used as a foaming agent for cosmetics and for biofuels.
Palm oil is found in a wide range of everyday consumer items from breakfast cereals, snacks, peanut butter to shampoo and cosmetics.
The demand for palm oil is leading to significant environmental damage in many countries around the world, including mass deforestation and species loss.
Despite being native to Africa, countries such as Guatemala and Honduras are among the largest producers of palm oil in the world.
The huge demand for palm oil is also leading to serious human rights abuses, where people are being forced off their land by companies that want to use the land to produce palm oil. Many community members that try to get their land back face violence, harassment, intimidation and even murder.
The Irish Coalition for Business and Human Rights (ICBHR) is calling for broad corporate accountability legislation that would apply to all companies across all sectors, not just palm oil.
This legislation would require companies to do their due diligence and check for human rights abuses and environmental damage in their operations around the world, as well as with the subsidiaries and suppliers they work with.
In 2022, the European Commission introduced a draft ground-breaking new Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence directive, intended to clean up corporate value chains of human rights abuses and environmental damage.
The development of the new directive is a significant milestone and it has huge potential to make responsible business conduct the norm.
However, the draft rules don’t go far enough, and in its present form the directive is inadequate and full of flaws and exemptions.
Irish MEPs are being urged by the ICBHR to strengthen this EU legislation when it goes to a crucial vote in the European Parliament, scheduled for the 1st of June.
EU member states have tried to significantly weaken the directive last year in December at the Council of the EU. Irish MEPs now have the opportunity this month in the European Parliament to vote for the Parliament to address these weaknesses.
This crucial vote will result in the European Parliament’s negotiating position for hammering out a final deal on the Directive in three-way negotiations between the Parliament, EU Member States in the Council and the European Commission, later this year.
Take action now by signing our petition and emailing your MEPs asking them to ensure that legislation is strong enough to protect people and planet.
Sign our petition here