As consumers become more conscious of the impact their choices have on the environment, the need for sustainable and ethical products has become increasingly important. This includes the cosmetics industry, which has long been criticized for its use of palm oil, an ingredient that has contributed to deforestation, habitat destruction, and animal endangerment.
In response to this, NATIVE EXTRACTS Pty Ltd has always produced palm oil free extracts, but the Australian phyto-tech company has taken a bold step by becoming the first extract manufacturer in the world to be certified palm oil-free. Through a rigorous certification process with the Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark (POFCAP), 1,546 of NE's cellular extracts have been certified, demonstrating their commitment to producing plant extracts that are both good for people and the planet.
Lisa Carroll, NATIVE EXTRACTS’ CEO, explains why it was important for her to take this step and not just seek third party certification, but to work specifically with POFCAP, “POFCAP takes their Certification process very seriously, thoroughly researching and verifying our supply chain, so that our brands and manufacturers can formulate with confidence and trust their ingredient source is not contributing to deforestation or loss of precious habitat and wildlife.”
POFCAP goes beyond taking statements from suppliers like some certifying groups, and instead has a rigorous investigative process. Bev Luff, Co-Manager POFCAP, says their strict standards “include tracing potential palm oil derivatives back to their source and verifying evidence through documentation. Although this process can take some time due to intentional omissions or missing documents down the supply chain, we believe it’s necessary to ensure accuracy.”
Complex Issue of Palm Oil Production
Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil globally, owing to its high yield compared to other crops per hectare of land.
However, efficient land use doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable land use. The palm oil industry has various factors to consider when examining its impacts much like other plant-based products. The burning of biodiverse rainforests to cultivate palm oil crops contributes to greenhouse gases, soil pollution, erosion and water contamination.
Additionally, this industry puts pressure on unique species like orangutans, rhinos, tigers and others.
In short, the palm oil industry has a significant impact on the environment, and companies must take steps to ensure their ingredient source is not contributing to deforestation or the loss of precious habitats and wildlife.
It can be a destructive crop when not managed responsibly, but even then, some places rely heavily on the jobs, infrastructure and tax revenue of Palm Oil production. In Indonesia and Malaysia, some 4.5 million people earn a living from the palm oil industry. In Indonesia alone, another 25 million people depend indirectly on palm oil production for their livelihoods. In an effort to curb the often unfair working conditions and eco-impacts, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has created their own controversial Sustainable Palm Oil Certification, which has been awarded to 19% of global palm oil
Why NATIVE EXTRACTS Opts Out of Palm Oil - Supporting Conscious Personal Care Brands
As the most widely used vegetable oil in the world, NATIVE EXTRACTS understands that Palm Oil production is a complex issue, with not one single solution. And while some sustainable palm oil plantations support rural farming communities, we opt to do so with growers of other species, where we can develop close relationships with our commercial, small scale and First Nation producers, to work towards a transparent and eco-ethical supply chain for our Australian native and traditional botanicals.
“Certifying with POFCAP is a valuable investment,” explains Lisa Carroll.
“Not only does it support our clients’ NPD and formulation process, it also works to reduce unsustainable palm oil, ultimately leading to better protection of threatened environments.” POFCAP distributes all profit from this Certification Trademark back into organisations working to protect rainforests around the world.
At NATIVE EXTRACTS, we go beyond advancing the science of extracts and manufacturing plant extracts. We always take the position of making more responsible choices and continuing to enable brands with more information.
There are various reasons why people may choose to avoid palm oil, whether due to allergies, dietary or ethical concerns. With POFCAP certification, individuals can quickly and easily identify palm oil-free extracts that have been thoroughly researched and certified by an independent Certification Trademark Programme.
Furthermore, for companies seeking to certify their own products, POFCAP can help by providing guidance on finding alternative ingredients that are palm oil free if they wish to reformulate with an alternative.
Protecting Ecosystems to Continue Discovering Natural Solutions
Every day at NATIVE EXTRACTS is a reminder of how much there is yet to discove and learn from nature. There are countless incentives for us to preserve ecosystems and biodiversity, including the drive to continue researching and advancing our understanding of nature, which in turn inspires innovative solutions.
When we came across an article that revealed the first known example of a nonhuman animal using a plant extract, it was a poignant moment to learn it was an orangutan - one of the many species our Palm Oil Free practice seeks to safeguard. Although most of our days are spent analysing the phyto-compound profiles of our Cellular Extracts under the microscope, we were reminded of the valuable plant knowledge that our animal friends have to offer, provided we are able to safeguard their resources and listen attentively.
The article states, “During more than 20,000 hours of formal observation, Morrogh-Bernard and her colleagues watched 10 orangutans occasionally chew a particular plant (which is not part of their diet) into a foamy lather and then rub it into their fur. The apes spent up to 45 minutes at a time massaging the concoction onto their upper arms or legs ... The results suggest that orangutans use the plant to reduce inflammation and treat pain.”
Palm Oil in Personal Care
In cosmetic products, palm oil is often used as a thickener, surfactant, cleanser or an emulsifier. It is estimated 70% of cosmetics contain either palm oil or palm kernel oil derivatives, making it difficult to avoid. Moreover, palm oil is often disguised under various names such as Myristic acid, Stearic acid, Palmitic acid, Lauric acid, Phytosterols, Oleic acid, or simply listed as emulsifier codes like E422 or E483 (see the full list of alternative names of palm oil derivatives here).
In many cases, Palm Oil is used in the production of an ingredient and is therefore not listed on the product label’s ingredients. For example, much of the glycerin used today is palm oil derived. There are many other alternatives for vegetable glycerin, which is a valuable, deeply moisturising ingredient for skin and hair. It is also antibacterial, non-comedogenic and hypoallergenic, great for well-aging products.
NATIVE EXTRACTS uses a glycerin solvent that is organic certified and derived from flaxseed. This crop is non-GMO, requires minimal irrigation and pesticides as it drought resilient and naturally pest resistant where we source it from. It is considered a renewable resource because it is fast-growing. One day we hope to see more alternative glycerin options, like hemp-derived glycerin!
See If your Ingredients are Certified Palm Oil Free
On each Cellular Extract page, you can see if an ingredient is certified in the Product Detail section (see section circled). On many of our data sheets for POFCAP certified ingredients, you’ll also start seeing the new friendly face of Jabrick, the inspiration behind the Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark and one of the many orangutans directly impacted by the deforestation linked to the Palm Oil industry.
"Free from" can often divert attention from the ingredients that brands do choose to use. At NATIVE EXTRACTS, we are constantly striving to include or exclude ingredients in our extracts to have the greatest positive impact on our planet, so that our brands and their consumers can make better choices.
Therefore, make sure to look out for the POFCAP certification logo trademark on our product pages, and learn more about our quality manufacturing certifications (including ISO, Organic, Food + Bev, etc.) HERE.
More on POFCAP’s Mission
We are proud to be working with POFCAP who has been approved to certify products in Australia and 21 other countries and has certified over 3,600 products to date! Learn more about their mission below (from their website).
Many palm oil free claims are made by companies whose products are not palm oil free. Most of these incorrect claims are innocent and are due to the lack of knowledge that thousands of ingredients are made from palm oil, but most do not have the word palm in their ingredient name e.g. cetyl alcohol.
This Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark was also created because whilst we support the idea of the palm oil industry being encouraged to produce 100% certified sustainable palm oil, currently only 20% of all palm oil produced is said to be certified sustainable and that has taken the RSPO nearly 20 years to achieve. Of that 'certified' palm oil much of it is from a supply chain called mixed balance (MB). Mixed balance is a combination of certified palm oil mixed with non-certified palm oil; therefore our team doesn't consider MB to be certified palm oil. How can it be if it is not pure?
We truly believe the effort to protect the world's rainforests requires a multi-pronged approach and will not be tackled by one organization alone or without consumers. We recognise all the work undertaken by many organisations and know that they have all been working hard over the last 17 years to discourage deforestation and educate both the public and the industry.
We understand many people wish to avoid products that contain palm oil and palm oil derivatives. Up until now, partly due to the complexity of palm oil and its multitude of derivatives there was no easy way to determine if a product was genuinely palm oil free. This issue drove us to develop a Certification Programme which guarantees consumers that any product that displays our Palm Oil Free Certification Trademark has been audited & certified by POFCAP using strict international criteria, rules and standards.