Greenwash of the Week: Malaysian Palm Oil Council

Written by Stan

Topics: Agribusiness

share this story
facebook twitter email stumble upon
Get Forest Alerts

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council is promoting their product as the green alternative to oil (of the non-Malaysian Palm variety). They’re running a series of ads each ending in “Sustainably produced since 1917″. I’m all for turning people away from the sticky black goo, but mowing down pristine rainforests to do so is not what I call sustainable.

I’ve embedded one of their ads below. We’ve found that “count the number of rainforest species that can’t be supported by a palm oil plantation” to be quite a fun (and challenging!) game to play while watching it.

Lest you think RAN is a lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, it should be noted that these ads triggered the wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority, who upheld all 4 counts of alleged truth-stretching.

Because MPOC had not provided substantiation to show that all palm oil plantations in Malaysia met criteria for sustainable production (not least because those criteria were not yet in existence), we concluded that the claim “sustainably produced” was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.2.6 (Environmental claims).

The ads should not reappear in their current form.

The ASA operates over in jolly old England, where there’s actually a code for broadcast advertising and violations are noted by the national media. Here in the US, what passes for truth on television is a bit more lax.

5 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. Luke says:

    These actually look like they were made by the same people as the infamous “they call it pollution; we call it life” ads about CO2. At least they display the same level of totally brazen deception. Good Lord.

  2. Brant says:

    I especially like the flyover of the pristine rainforest with the slow fade to the palm oil mono crop. Slick!!

  3. Dr. Glen Barry says:

    I nominate RAN for the next Greenwash of the Week for their support of “certified” logging of ancient primary and old-growth rainforests. Tell me, just how does claims of sustainable oil palm based upon ancient forest destruction differ from claims of sustainable timber? Oh, that’s right, you are all under strict orders not to respond to me substantively on this matter. This in on topic.

  4. Luke says:

    One of the reasons the British Advertising Standards Authority rejected the ads in question was because no standard, contested or otherwise, existed by which to judge the sustainability of palm oil production. So claims of sustainable timber production differ from those of sustainable palm oil production in that sustainable timber production, at least potentially, refers to production according to some environmental standard.

    In fact, if we environmentalists want palm oil producers to change their behavior (and we do), it might not be a bad idea to help put together such a standard and get them to abide by it. Then we would have a point of leverage to influence the industry and an alternative to yelling into the void.

  5. Dr. Glen Barry says:

    Good point. I would counter that no standards can ensure primary and old-growth forests logged or cleared for oil palm are ecologically sustainability. By definition, a primary rainforest has not been managed. Any activity, according to any standard other than leaving them alone, changes this. In other words, you can’t industrially log ancient rainforests (or plant oil palm) and still have ancient rainforests.

Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Understory » Greenwash of the Week: Take II

Leave a Comment Here's Your Chance to Be Heard!

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.