We are acutely aware of the ethical, environmental and social implications of using palm oil from Southeast Asia, we consciously avoid using palm oil in our skin care.
Our founder, Zoë, is an active and passionate ambassador for The Orangutan Project, and is very well versed in this subject. She has seen firsthand the devastation that deforestation creates for the land and the locals in Borneo and knows the desperate plight of the orangutan is very, very real. (Donate HERE.)
The big picture, however, is far from black and white, and contrary to popular belief and despite very best intentions, boycotting palm oil is a misguided way to help this dire situation. Since the land itself – and its ability to create crops and therefore money – is what is of value, if it's not palm oil, then it will be coconuts, coal, rubber etc. Donating money to buy back forest is far more useful.
Where We’re At
Many ingredients used in skin care are derived from palm oil, and they are not easily identified. There are multiple steps using multiple manufacturers in the process of obtaining some of the high-end ingredients. To further complicate it, some of the intermediate ingredients can be derived from either palm or coconut, and manufacturers may not segregate the sources. What fun!
As we dug deep (real deep) in to the supply chain of our ingredients, we discovered that some of the ingredients we use are more likely to be palm oil derived than from coconut. These ingredients include a surfactant, emulsifier, and a derivative in one of our fragrances.
We have confirmed that the suppliers of these ingredients are members of the Round Table on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO). This organisation audits and certifies suppliers based on their level of sustainability and traceability.
However, we want to be sure that any palm oil used to make ingredients for Bro-To is completely sustainable, and aspire to the highest level of sustainability, called Segregated and Identity Preserved. This is where there is no mixing of supply from unknown locations and is a 100% guarantee of sustainability. This is the Palm Oil Holy Grail, and currently nearly impossible to achieve, not just for us, but for everyone: The demand simply does not meet the supply.
Bro-To is small; we can't take control of this process to ensure what we get is the sustainable stuff. Even very big skin care companies can't. We are making our very best efforts to do the right thing.
Despite our frustration, we are not alone, as our friends at The Orangutan Project explain:
"The Orangutan Project (TOP) acknowledges that Bro-To, like many other manufacturers, who have the very best of intentions in making products that are palm oil free, have encountered great difficulty sourcing palm oil free derivatives due to the complexity of the supply chain and industry as a whole. TOP recognises that the production of many products requires ingredients that currently have no alternatives available that are A) 100% palm oil free, or B) have certification of single source. TOP therefore does not exclude these companies from helping towards orangutan conservation and welfare."
– Leif Cocks, president and founder of The Orangutan Project
Bro-To is working to:
- Make our range free of palm oil and its derivatives, or,
- Only use Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) ingredients from segregated supply chains.
Both of these are challenging.
One, because it is virtually impossible to create a high quality, pleasant, effective cosmetic product without the use of palm oil or palm oil-derived substances to emulsify, preserve and bind ingredients, which is why there are only a handful of products authentically claiming this.
And two, because the palm oil industry is a mess. We are a tiny company trying to do something that not even the very big companies have achieved, because demand at this point for CSPO just doesn't exist.
We believe and hope this will change. Manufacturers are starting to demand more access to sustainable palm oil and its derivatives, which means there will be more reason for harvesters to sell palm oil that is ethical and sustainable.
Meanwhile, we are injecting much love, time and care into removing the minuscule traces of palm oil derivative we do use in just TWO of our products, so that we are completely palm free, while simultaneously hunting for suppliers who can offer conflict-free, certified sustainable palm oil ingredients to use in place of those we currently do use. To our knowledge, no such thing currently exists.
We didn't set out to be the gold standard in palm oil-free skin care, but we are trying our best to do what we believe is right. Many friends in the industry express the exact same frustrations and share our goals.
Being an honorable, accountable, transparent, and GOOD company is very important to Zoë and Bro-To, so if you have any further questions please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
(And, hey, why not adopt a baby orangutan?)