Behind Badger’s Ingredients: Palm Oil

Palm Oil

Palm oil has been used in soap making for thousands of years beginning in ancient Babylon – and when we examine its characteristics it’s easy to understand why! It creates a hard, cleansing bar of soap with a fluffy lather that gently moisturizes the skin. When palm is combined with olive oil or coconut oil (like in all Badger soaps), the result is smooth, effortless cleansing that leaves skin soft – not squeaky and oil-depleted. Badger’s goal is to produce the safest, most effective products for our customers, and because palm oil is a large part of why Badger soaps are so glorious, we knew we had to find a way to source it responsibly and sustainably.

Despite its many benefits, palm oil is perhaps Badger’s most controversial ingredient. Worldwide concerns regarding palm oil include deforestation, land conflicts, violations of workers’ rights, emission of greenhouse gases, and endangerment of local wildlife. So how does palm oil fit into Badger’s philosophy of formulation if palm harvests are not always ecologically and socially responsible?

Fortunately, there are third-party certifications for palm oil that provide supply chain transparency and ensure against the adverse impacts listed above. First is the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). In 2008, RSPO developed a set of environmental and social criteria that palm oil suppliers must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When these criteria are applied to palm harvests, negative consequences of the oil production can be minimized. The harvests of the palm oil in Badger’s bar soaps and shave soap are overseen by RSPO, so we can feel confident that our rigorous ingredient standards are met.

sustainable palm oil
Image courtesy of Ciranda: www.ciranda.com

Another regulation that mitigates many palm harvest concerns is the USDA organic standard. All USDA certified organic ingredients, including Badger’s palm oil, are put under intense scrutiny to guarantee that safe and respectful agricultural practices are being followed. The USDA traces each ingredient’s life cycle from production to processing and handling. Specifically, they look for conformity in the following areas: natural resource and biodiversity conservation, animal health and welfare, and prohibited substance testing (i.e., conventional pesticides and GMOs). Every year, all USDA-certified operations – including Badger – are audited for compliance of the organic standard. This assessment includes inspection of organic facilities and documentation (“organic systems plan”), as well as supply chain analysis and labeling compliance. Failure to meet USDA’s requirements for the organic standard will result in financial penalties, suspension or revocation of an operation’s organic certificate, or other implementation of enforcement actions.

Badger purchases organic palm oil from two suppliers: Ciranda for the bar soaps, and Stephenson for the Shave Soap. Both of these vendors are certified by RSPO, and Ciranda’s Palm is RSPO IP certified which is the highest level of product available through the RSPO. Ciranda and Stephenson are fantastic partners for Badger due to their pledges to respect and preserve ecosystems, safe working practices, and indigenous populations living near palm plantations. Badger applauds our certified organic and socially responsible suppliers – without them, we wouldn’t be able to share our products with the world!

What do you think of palm oil? Continue the discussion in the comments below!

Janis Zirlen

Janis Zirlen was a member of Badger's Product Development team from 2011-2015. As the Product Development Technical Lead, she researched subjects related to human health, safety regulations, and the chemistry of our ingredients.

Janis' Favorite Badger products: Yoga + Meditation Balm, Lemongrass + Ginger Soap, Unscented Face Oil, and Argan Hair Oil.

11 comments on “Behind Badger’s Ingredients: Palm Oil

  • Hi Janice,

    Very nicely researched and written! Thanks!

    Hey, I think the only thing one might add is that, if I understand the process correctly, the USDA approves third party organizations like Oregon Tilth and The NH Deprtment of Agriculture to conduct audits and certify as USDA organic, products, facilities, suppliers and so on. But really, the way you said it was just fine…

    Thank you and have a lovely evening!

    Bill

    Reply
  • Thank you for your transparency on this controversial issue! Just another reason I love Badger and all you stand for!!

    Reply
  • This is such a confusing area to research.

    I’ve been reading about it for a few months now and have contacted several companies about their palm oil use. Seventh Generation, popular for their green cleaning products, and a member of the RSPO, told me there’s no such thing as organic palm oil, they don’t use sustainable palm oil and they DO use sustainable palm oil. Their explanation for not using it is that there are only 4 processing plants world wide and ALL palm oil, sustainable and otherwise is mixed together. It’s too expensive to manufacture them separately.

    And then I read on other company’s websites that they do use it, so I have to (really want to!) believe it does exist. Unfortunately when a large company we should be able to trust such as Seventh Generation doesn’t even appear to know what they use, how do I know for sure that other companies are completely honest or knowledgeable?

    Needless to say, I don’t use Seventh Generation products anymore.

    Aside from all that, the RSPO doesn’t fill me with great confidence. While their intentions are obviously good, just because a company is a member, doesn’t mean they actually use sustainable palm oil. Or if they do, it’s a very small percentage.

    I have more assurance in an ingredient (or product) being certified organic.

    I’m grateful for this article though. And I’m going to now look into Ciranda and Stephenson. As a concerned consumer, I’ve learned not to take matters at face value and to do my own homework 🙂

    Reply
  • Greenpeace notes the RSOP as a “so called sustainability bodies” – meaning the certification is worthless in terms of actually representing sustainability practices for rainforests and its inhabitants. Until a reliably ethical certification is founded, I’ll avoid the products with palm oil.

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi TM,

      Thank you for your comment, and your commitment to sustainability. I have passed your thoughts along to our family-owners, who take this type of feedback seriously. 🙂

      There’s really no easy way to source sustainable palm, so we don’t rely on just one certification to verify whether the ingredient is sustainable. We use RSOP, the USDA certified organic standard, and additional certifications obtained by our suppliers like EcoSocial, Fair Trade, Orangutan Land Trust/Forests4Orangutans approved. Long story short, our suppliers go WAY above and beyond RSOP.

      Did you click through any of the links in this article? Here is more information from Ciranda, who we source from for our bar soaps, and from Stephenson who provides the palm oil for our Shave soap. Both companies are considered leaders in humane and sustainable sourcing of organic palm. I would take a look at their websites and get all of the information before you condemn our use of palm – as you well know this is a multifaceted issue, and simply frowning upon the RSPO does nothing to forward the movement of sustainability practices in the rainforests of the world.

      Most importantly this issue cannot be solved without diligence on the part of companies like Badger and consumers like you. Thanks for doing your part!

      Respectfully,
      Jentri

      Reply
  • Really unhappy that you have discontinued baby badger soap which had no controversial or harsh ingredients, please would you reconsider your decision?

    Reply
    • Badger Balm

      Hi Claire,

      Sorry that you are disappointed! At this time we don’t have anyone to make the soaps for us, nor do we have the capacity to produce them here. We hope to make soaps here in the future, but we have no immediate plans. So sorry!

      Jentri

      Reply

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