Supermarket Iceland leads the way with a bold move that could save orangutans and the rainforests


The supermarket Iceland is leading the way with a bold move that could save orangutans and the rainforests.

Iceland’s bold pledge

Iceland has announced its commitment to removing palm oil from its own-label products by the end of 2018. It explained on Twitter:

This news was welcomed by Greenpeace and many others:

Iceland’s managing director Richard Walker said:

Until Iceland can guarantee palm oil is not causing rainforest destruction, we are simply saying ‘no to palm oil’. We don’t believe there is such a thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil available to retailers, so we are giving consumers a choice about what they buy.

Destructiveness of palm oil

Orangutans are currently a threatened species. And the main threat to the survival of orangutans in the wild is the massive expansion of palm oil plantations in Borneo and Sumatra. According to UN reports, this has caused widespread forest destruction in Indonesia and Malaysia. Every hour, 300 football fields of remaining forest are cleared across South East Asia to make way for palm plantations. In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have gone. As a result, almost 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared.

Clearing forests for palm oil plantations has had a huge impact on the population of many species – and not only orangutans. Palm oil farming is destroying the ecological diversity of countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. And it has social impacts too, especially on indigenous peoples.

The Living Planet Index reveals that global populations of animals – including fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles – decreased by 58% between 1970 and 2012. That’s over half of the planet’s animals. And if the situation continues, we could lose two thirds by 2020.

The latest edition of the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Living Planet Report tells us of an imminent global catastrophe due to human activity. It also tells us how we can start to put it right. Essentially, we all need to act now to reform our food and energy production and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity, and supporting sustainable development.

Positive response for Iceland, but we need so much more

Iceland’s announcement largely received a favourable response across the media. The GuardianThe Times, the Evening Standard, and even the Daily Mail all reported on it. The Telegraph compared palm oil to plastic, and The Sun wrote about it as a health and fitness issue.

Social media users also welcomed this news. On Facebook and Twitter, Iceland’s post received mostly positive responses:

But as Friends of the Earth tweeted in response to the BBC, much more needs to be done.

Other people, meanwhile, wanted more information about Iceland’s plans:

We need to stop consuming palm oil. And whatever Iceland’s motives, this pledge is an important part of the ongoing effort to reduce the consumption of palm oil. And other supermarkets may now follow Iceland’s lead – especially if it improves their bottom line.

Iceland’s move might be a small step, but it’s clearly a step in the right direction.

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Featured Image Daiju Azuma – Wikimedia and Secretlondon/Wikimedia Commons

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