Palm Oil Sourcing.. but make it sustainable!

February 25, 2022

I’ve talked a lot about Seppic’s sustainability practices, but what does being sustainable really mean? The best example would be palm oil. Palm oil can be seen as a major driver of deforestation, however, it may not be the best solution to get rid of it all together.

Palm oil sourcing not only creates jobs in the countries where it is sourced, but it offers a high yield value compared to other oil sources. When sustainably sourced, it is a way to help keep these jobs and help the environment! By complying with RSPO (Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil) standards, companies can source palm safely and sustainably - and Seppic is proud to be a part of this change for the better!

Let’s go a little more in depth into the importance of palm oil as well as how we can all become more sustainable in the beauty care industry!

Palm Kernel ©AdobeStock - dolphfyn

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a vegetable oil produced from the palm tree Elaeis guineensis, growing in tropical climates. The fruits contain 30-35% oil and are harvested every 10 days, a tree producing 40kg of oil every year.

Palm oil comes from:

  • the pulp of the fruit, providing a red oil (rich in carotenoïds & vit E)
  • the kernel, offers an oil that is less colored and has less volume than in the pulp

Other main oils produced in the world are rapeseed, soybean, olive, sunflower and coconut oils.

Content and use of palm oil

Palm oil (like other oils) is composed of fatty acids, esterified with glycerol. Palm oil has a high % of saturated fatty acids compared to other vegetable oils (50% vs less than 20%), making it semi-solid at room temperature, an interesting substitute for butter.
Main fatty acids found in palm oil include:

  • palmitic acid and oleic acid
    Main fatty acids found in palm kernel oil include:
  • lauric acid, myristic acid, oleic acid

Palm oil is mostly used in the food industry, then consumer goods like beauty, and energy (biofuels).

What is the issue in the food industry?

Crude palm oil is naturally free of trans fats. But hydrogenation and heat can generate trans-fatty acids, known to affect cardiovascular health.

In the beauty industry, palm oil fatty acids can be used to manufacture ingredients that contain lipophilic chains, like emulsifiers, surfactants,... (primary oleochemicals sourced from palm oil: glycerin, triglycerides, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, methyl esters).
But these are not necessarily derived from palm. On the contrary, “palm-” INCI ingredients are made with palmitic acid (C16) that don’t necessarily come from palm.
→ It is not possible to know the origin of ingredients by looking at the label.

Palm oil is a needed resource

Worldwide, the need for vegetable oils is increasing, due to:

  • Food needs (India and China are main countries importing this local source of oil), as well as beef feeding
  • The need to shift away from non renewable sources to renewable sources
  • The demand for natural ingredients

Palm trees are the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop:
→ don’t require as much surface to grow
→ don’t require as much pesticides and fertilizers

Palm oil production profile is very sustainable and not expensive

So, what is the issue with palm oil?

While vegetable oils from sources like sunflowers and canola grow in temperate climate zones, palm trees (as well as soybean) grow in tropical climate zones that are rich in biodiversity with high carbon stock value (lots of forests, able to capture CO2 from the atmosphere).

Cosmetic Oil Sources

The consequences of palm trees cultivation are on the environment, due to deforestation (less CO2 captured from the atmosphere), and the animal/botanical biodiversity but it gives employment to people (“40% of the production is grown by smallholders”)

The solution is not to ban palm oil, as it would mean switching to another vegetable oil (that can be less productive), but to use sustainable palm oil. It ensures preservation of forest/animals and supports people employment and development.

Sustainable palm with RSPO and ASD

RSPO - Roundtable for Sustainable palm oil (opens new window) - was founded in 2004 after WWF highlighted the outcomes of intensive deforestation. The goal of the roundtable is make palm oil supply sustainable through a standard for plantation procedures, certification of the plantations & standard for the circulation of the certified derivatives.. The RSPO holds not only the company they are working with, but all companies in the supply chain accountable for a more sustainable future!

ASD - Action for Sustainable Derivatives (opens new window) - is an industry-led initiative bringing BtoB and BtoC members together, started in 2019, to achieve responsible production and sourcing of palm oil derivatives, free from deforestation, respecting human rights, and supporting local livelihoods

Seppic has been a RSPO member since 2010. As of now, in 2022, 98% of our palm sourcing is Mass Balance.
It’s in line with our commitment to be 100% MB certified sourcing by 2025!

Seppic is also a member of the ASD since the beginning, in 2019, and with their help, we were able to trace 84% of our palm supplies to the mills.

Read more (opens new window)


RSPO website:

ASD website: