Soapmaking is an ancient craft. Through the years, soapmakers have used many different fats and oils to combine with lye and create cleansing bars or liquids. In fact, it wasn’t until World War I made fats and oil scarce that synthetic oils became the norm. Up until then, the oils used in soap were derived from organic sources, such as plants and animals. The oils were sourced well, not because of any crusade for sustainability, but because soap was made in small batches and for local communities.
Why Palm Oil Is Great for Soap
Palm oil became popular in soapmaking because it is an excellent vegetarian alternative to animal products. While animal fat tends to be stable and hard, plant oils are softer and don’t lend the same qualities to a soap. Using plant materials makes organic soap far more sustainable, but not many plant-based oils were up to the job. After palm oil was discovered to be a suitable substitute, it became a favored ingredient in both industrial and organic soap.
The Problem of Deforestation
In 2014, Greenpeace released a report disclosing the results of a year-long investigation into Proctor & Gamble’s palm oil supply chain. The report revealed massive deforestation, destruction of orangutan and Sumatran tiger habitats, and uncontrolled forest fires. While there had long been concerns about the sourcing of palm oil in such massive quantities (in 2013, P&G alone bought about 462,000 tons of it), the Greenpeace report tipped the scales in favor of sustainability. In April 2014, P&G committed to new sustainability goals including no deforestation for palm oil.
Why We Need to Keep Talking About It
While it is excellent that P&G has chosen to set the bar higher, it is still sadly common for many companies to source palm oil in destructive ways. A sustainable, traceable source requires more legwork and a higher cost. Many conventional companies aren’t willing to make that sacrifice. In places where palm oil is being harvested with little consideration for the environment, unfair labor and trade practices are also common.
The Palm Oil in Somewhat Organic Soap
The palm oil used in Somewhat Organic soap is certified and traceable. We only purchase our supply from South American countries using high levels of sustainability. We do not source any palm oil out of Southeast Asia or Indonesia where palm plantations have been rapidly taking over forests and disrupting habitats. We are choosing to be part of the solution to the forest destruction problem.
Palm oil is an excellent option for soapmaking. It is vegetarian, abundant, and easily sourced. Unfortunately, many large companies have taken advantage of the lack of regulations in other countries and have wreaked havoc on the environment. When you purchase Somewhat Organic Soap, you make a statement that you think we can do better! By insisting on better practices, we can make sustainability the norm for every company.