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  • 34 score
    44 voters

    Take palm oil products out of the Student’s Union

    Current
      The palm oil industry is causing mass destruction of Asian, African and Latin American landscapes, creating a significant threat to the environment, by polluting the atmosphere with huge carbon and methane emissions and by clearing habitats and endangering a number of species. Not only this, but there are several links to chocolate companies which use palm oil in their products and have issues with child labour and modern slavery. There are currently well over 20 products in the SU which have palm oil in them and are the products of companies which use child labour, and we don’t really believe that as students we should be contributing to this problem. By taking these products out of the SU we believe that less students will consume palm oil, which makes us as a university more environmentally aware and therefore improving our carbon footprints collectively. The products we wish for the SU to mainly take out of the shops are anything with palm oil, including but not limited to: Nestle, Mars, Warburtons, Cadbury's Dairy Milk, Galaxy, Maltesers, Haribo’s, and Mcvitie’s Digestives. We understand that taking away these products is frustrating considering they are staple British foods, however, we think it's better to replace these chocolates with fair trade, non-palm oil foods such as Lindt chocolate, Green & Blacks, Burton’s Biscuits, Divine chocolate, and more.
    Andrew Briddock
    2:45pm on 18 Mar 19 This is an important step in showing that the SU is willing to do its part to help save the environment
    Hyland Muirhead
    4:08pm on 18 Mar 19 The SU should take the initiative to eliminate palm oil products and stop supporting an industry which leads to mass environmental destruction
    Huzefa Javed
    9:38pm on 18 Mar 19 It's time to see the SU take real action to mitigate the impact we have on our environment and minimise our support for companies that prey on citizens of developing nations, exploiting their lives, liberty and labour just so that we can enjoy a Kit Kat.
    Elizabeth Rose Argento
    1:01pm on 19 Mar 19 Save orangutans! Making small changes, such as eliminating a few products in the SU that have palm oil will have a global impact.
    Izzy Woolrych
    1:45pm on 20 Mar 19 Hi guys, This was written by a Postdoctoral Research Student, Sara, who works on plantations in Indonesia and therefore is very knowledgeable about this topic! "To start, I just want to say it’s great to see students being active and asking tough questions! To just introduce myself so that you know where my perspective is coming from; I’ve been working with conservation in Indonesian Borneo for almost 8 years with the Borneo Nature Foundation and I completed my PhD on tropical peatland socio-ecology and interdisciplinary conservation here at UoL. I work in the peat-swamps of Borneo, and also with local communities, looking at their experiences of environment change and challenges. The palm oil issue is a difficult one, because of the many mixed messages. But, as Prof Sue Page and I were explaining during the debate a while back; a boycott is not the answer and can actually be very counterproductive. We need to support certified palm oil, and continue pushing for stronger certification standards. Just removing something from your shopping basket is a bit of an easy way out of engaging in the greater complexities of the conversation. The palm oil that Nestle uses, as far as I know, comes mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia. Across the world, smallholders account for 40% of palm oil production. This is where things get complicated. The supply chains are messy, and many of these smallholders are people who are trying to make ends meet. A lot of the debate around palm oil in the West forgets that 30 million people still live in poverty in Indonesia, and I have been to villages where the only reason they have a functioning road for their kids to go to school, is because of oil palm revenue. The large companies, ironically, tend to actually be more environmentally friendly than the smallholders (let me just thrown that in there to further complicate matters). This is because smallholders tend to have less experience in cultivating oil palm, have less access to knowledge and technology. Large companies are a lot more monitored than smallholders. Some of the remaining peat-swamp forests are only there because they are part of the ‘set-aside’ of large companies. Most palm oil is used as a cooking oil in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, China (around two thirds of the world’s palm oil is consumed in Asia). This is the low-grade oil that isn’t as valuable. However, in Europe, a lot of the palm oil that comes in things like cosmetics and chocolates, is the higher value stuff. This matters to palm oil producers – our demand matters. A boycott will NOT change producer behaviour. Instead, you just remove yourself from the whole conversation and the destruction of rainforests will continue. Suggestions to change to alternative oils is also not realistic – oil palm is the most productive vegetable oil crop by far compared to all other vegetable oils (producing 4-10 times the yield of other crops per hectare). Palm oil is not the problem - the problem is where/how oil palm is grown. For change to happen in how it’s grown, we need certified sustainable palm oil to have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Of course, using palm oil for biofuel is terrible – go ahead and boycott that, and pressure governments to do so too. Yes consume more local products. But if you are worried about rainforest destruction, support conservation organisations that are working on the ground every day, along with human rights and indigenous rights organisations. Put pressure on, for example the SU, to only sell products containing certified palm oil. Campaign for clearer labels on food products, and support brands that care. Tell producers and companies what it is you want (i.e. palm oil that has not caused deforestation), and make sure you’re then willing to pay the extra money for it (consider that many people might not have the financial means to…). So, that’s what I would suggest, but happy to take comments and further questions if anything is unclear! Well done to you all again, keep it going and keep being loud about things like this that matter!" I hope some people considering this issue find it useful to hear from someone with so much in-depth knowledge about the topic - I certainly found it extremely enlightening! I'd love to hear further debate about this topic, and am also happy to pass further questions on to Sara if people have any, it's just great to have people at the University with such strong knowledge on topics like these to help people make an informed decision which can have the most beneficial, sustainable and environmentally-friendly impact.