Earlier this week I received an email from Greenpeace; “We did it. HSBC have just announced that they’ll stop funding palm oil companies that destroy the rainforest.”
One of the charity’s latest campaigns was set out against European bank HSBC for their lending money to companies funding the Palm Oil industry. Whilst this is a huge victory in the fight against Palm Oil and credit to them for this achievement, I can’t help but think about how this destructive and devastating industry never quite managed to make headlines the way it should, the way previous environmental and social catastrophes have, like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and deforestation of the Amazon. It begs the question;
Are we becoming numb to the catastrophes we are inflicting on our own planet?
Though you have probably never gone out and directly bought Palm Oil, it is a product used in vast amounts of foodstuffs, beauty products and even toothpaste! You probably consume it everyday without realising, but because of its rapid expansion into our products, the rapid growth of its production has had serious consequences. Oil Palms grow in tropical climates and has meant massive expanses of rain-forests are cleared (normally set ablaze) for mono-culture Palm Oil plantations, destroying all living biodiversity in its wake and forcing out local and indigenous communities.
A simple search of “palm oil” came back with Guardian articles from last year, nothing from this year and nothing about the recent success of curbing HSBC’s actions. Instead the articles talk about how the devastation has been done and completed in Indonesia and Malaysia, and how we mustn’t let a repeat of this happen in Africa – the newest continent for investment in Palm Oil plantations. There is no hope given to reverse the consequences or a call to stop the companies already operating in SE Asia. It is as though hope there has been long-lost and we should move on.
But it is not too late to act and we can save this destruction!
The success of Greenpeace’s campaign evidences that we, as the public, do have pressure power over corporate companies to stand and make a change. But we need to stop turning a blind eye and acting numb to these reports of destruction.
So what can be done?
We, as consumers, need to promote the use of Sustainable Palm Oil in products, simply purchasing products that are Certified and boycotting those that are not. 10% of all palm oil production is certified, but the WWF has been working to achieve this since 2000. Palm oil does not need to be interchangeable with rain-forest destruction, but we need to make the change now – before it is too late.