LUSH Cosmetics Tells Palm Oil to Suds Off

LUSH cosmetics photo

Photo credit: Olivier Bruchez
LUSH Cosmetics is washing its hands off palm oil, and it's encouraging other multinational corporations to lather up to something else. Found in food products, biofuels, and many cosmetics, palm oil has been pilloried for the destruction of rainforests in Southeast Asia and driving the endangered orangutan to the brink of extinction.

The bodycare purveyor—which is phasing palm oil out from its headily aromatic collection of soap and shampoo bars, shower jellies, body butters, and fizzing bath bombs—is now selling a newly formulated soap that is completely palm-free.

As part of its nationwide campaign against palm oil, LUSH is writing to the top 300 companies that use the ingredient, including Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and Nestle, to urge them to look for alternatives. Any company that reformulates its products to remove palm oil will get a year's supply of LUSH soap for its headquarters.

LUSH's palm-oil alternative
For the past three years, LUSH has worked to develop a soap base that does not contain palm oil. All new soaps are made with this palm-free base, a move that the company estimates reduces the amount of palm oil it uses by 133,000 pounds per year, or the equivalent of 36.3 acres of primary rainforest.

Traces of palm oil still remain, however, because the ingredient is also used to make common soap additives like sodium stearate and sodium lauryl sulfate, which LUSH obtains from third-party suppliers. The company says it's working with its vendors to find out how much palm oil is in these ingredients and what surrogates exist.

LUSH Jungle soap

Photo credit: LUSH
Public awareness campaign
LUSH will also be selling a limited-edition, tree-shape soap, called "Jungle," as part of its PSA. All proceeds from the sale of the soap will go to the Rainforest Foundation (yes, the one Sting founded), which works with indigenous people to preserve the rainforests from encroachment by palm oil plantations.

Not-so-fun facts about palm oil
The cosmetics industry uses 6 to 7 percent of the global supply of palm oil, but the biggest consumer of the ingredient is currently food, with one out of every 10 items in the supermarket aisles—including chips, breads, biscuits, and margarine—containing the ingredient.

Roughly 90 percent of the world’s palm oil comes from Malaysia and Indonesia, and the United Nations estimates that palm oil plantations are "now the primary cause of permanent rainforest loss." If action is not taken, 98 percent of the rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia a could vanish in only 15 years.

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