Business & Policy Environmental Policy 25 Sneaky Names for Palm Oil By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated October 27, 2020 Minette Lontsie / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0 Share Twitter Pinterest Email Business & Policy Corporate Responsibility Environmental Policy Economics Food Issues Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under many names. For consumers concerned about the catastrophic ill effects of the palm industry, here’s what to look for. Palm oil is the most popularly used vegetable oil in the world. It is remarkably versatile and is used in everything from snack food and shampoo to biofuel. It is so prevalent that it can be found in around half of packaged items in most supermarkets. It comes from the fruit of the oil palm tree (Elaeis guineensis) which is native to West Africa. It was once used for basic things like food and fiber, but with a yield greater than other vegetable oil crops, and with low labor costs, it has become the go-to oil. While trees were once planted in small-scale, sustainable systems, the high demand has created a need for large-scale plantations. The Ecological Impact of Palm Oil To make room for palm crops, huge areas of tropical forests and other ecosystems where conservation is important are being stripped bare. Critical habitat for orangutans and many endangered species – including rhinos, elephants and tigers – has been destroyed. Forest-dwelling people lose their land, local communities are negatively affected. Catastrophic fires have taken place in Indonesia due to plantation slash-and-burn clearing that has run amok. Global production of palm oil has more than quadrupled 15 million tons in 1995 to 66 million tons in 2017. The industry's worth an estimated $60 billion and its production value is expected to reach $88 billion by 2022. While the demand for palm oil may be hard to stem, by supporting sustainably produced palm oil, consumers can play a role in decreasing the destruction brought on by corporate interests. Other Names Palm oil and its derivatives can appear under more names than just “palm oil.” While some of these ingredients listed by WWF – like vegetable oil – aren’t always made from palm oil, they can be: 1. Elaeis guineensis2. Etyl palmitate3. Glyceryl4. Hydrogenated palm glycerides5. Octyl palmitate6. Palm fruit oil7. Palm kernel8. Palm kernel oil9. Palm stearine10. Palmate11. Palmitate12. Palmitic acid13. Palmitoyl oxostearamide14. Palmitoyl tetrapeptide-315. Palmityl alcohol16. Palmolein17. Sodium kernelate18. Sodium laureth sulfate19. Sodium lauryl lactylate/sulphate20. Sodium lauryl sulfate21. Sodium palm kernelate22. Stearate23. Stearic acid24. Vegetable fat25. Vegetable oil If you see these ingredients on a label you can call the company and enquire as to whether or not they include palm oil and/or if they source palm oil from sustainable enterprises. Also, WWF advises consumers to look for the RSPO label to ensure that certified sustainable palm oil, produced in socially and environmentally responsible ways, was used. The Rainforest Alliance has a certification label as well. View Article Sources Gesteiro, Eva, et al. “Palm Oil on the Edge.” Nutrients. 2019, vol. 11, doi:10.3390/nu11092008 Kadandale, Sowmya, et al. The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases. Bull World Health Organ. 2019;97(2):118-128. doi:10.2471/BLT.18.220434 Barcelos, Edson, et al. Oil palm natural diversity and the potential for yield improvement. Front Plant Sci. 2015, vol. 6, doi:10.3389/fpls.2015.00190 Kadandale, Sowmya, et al. “The Palm Oil Industry and Communicable Diseases.” World Health Organization.