Change the biobased surfactant market with RSPO certified sustainable palm oil


Head of European Operations, Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil


As home and personal care producers move to natural ingredients, we observe a shift from petrochemical based surfactants to vegetable oil derived surfactants. The most common used vegetable oils are palm kernel oil and coconut oil as these have the appropriate C-chain lengths. Palm oil production has provided an income for many farmers living under the national poverty line in Malaysia and Indonesia, and today a total of 4.5 million people in Asia alone earn a living from the palm oil industry. Oil palm is the highest yielding vegetable oil crop being four to 10 times more productive than other crops. At the same time it is increasingly the most consumed vegetable oil in the world, and with a growing global population this is set to continue. To increase the palm oil supply, there has been a yield increase on existing plantations, conversion of agricultural or degraded lands but unfortunately also clearing OF primary and secondary forests. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) has been working with its more than 4,000 members globally to make the palm sector more sustainable. The RSPO Standard ensures that the production of palm (kernel) oil is done in an environmentally friendly manner, while respecting human and workers rights. This is verified by independent accredited certification bodies. Producers of home and personal care products can support this market transition to sustainable palm (kernel) oil by joining the RSPO, certifying production facilities and only sourcing RSPO certified ingredients.


As a particularly versatile oil, extracted from the flesh of the fruit of the oil palm and also when the kernel of the fruit is crushed, palm (kernel) oil is a favourable ingredient for food, and home and personal care products as it maintains its properties under high temperatures, has a smooth and creamy texture and no distinct smell.  Approximately 2% of the world’s palm oil and palm kernel oil is used in cosmetics, while 3% is used in home care. As an ingredient in many of the products on supermarket shelves, from margarine and chocolate to ice cream, soaps, cosmetics, and even as a biofuel for cars and power plants, it is easy to see why there has been such large-scale market demand for the oil and is actually the most consumed vegetable oil globally. It is also the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop and needs less than half the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil, which makes it very efficient and the least expensive vegetable oil in the world.

Yet in some regions oil palm cultivation has caused and c ...