Raising the Bar – Our Palm Oil

It’s a complex and growing enviromental issue, we get asked about the Palm Oil in our soap bases, and soap productson a regular basis and rightly so. Deforestation and illegal clearing is causing devastation to Tropical rainforests and eco-systems. We chose to be different when it comes to sourcing our raw materials, and are proud to have been the first soap base supplier worldwide to use 100% RSPO certified sustainable Palm and Palm Kernel Oil in our production.

To give you some background the palm oil content of a soap bar is incredibly high, in fact around 50% of a soap bar is made using Palm Oil depending on the blend. The oil Palm is used to give the soap bar hardness, and stability when combined with Palm Kernel (or Coconut, softer fractions) for lathering performance, it ensures the soap doesn’t soften and dissolve too quickly when being used.

We made a stance some time ago, in fact as soon as we could to switch exclusively to use certified sustainable palm and palm kernel oil (segregated RSPO) in our soap base production. We have been pushing and working to acheive more from our supply chain to provide our customers with piece of mind and tracability, transparency of our stock and control.  We wanted to ensure and understand that our Palm Oil use developed partnerships, benefited communities, protected bio-diversity, and provide fair standards for workers and small holders throughtout the supply chain.

It was a simple choice for us to partner with New Britain Oils, by working alongside NBPOL we can be sure that every drop of our Palm & Palm Kernel Oil is derived from the sustainable farms in Papua New Guinea that have been developed without any large-illegal destruction and de-forestation of rainforest, an aspect that is now too common with many of the mainstream oil palm plantations, and suppliers.

To give a brief background New Britain Oils is one of the world’s leading producers of certified sustainable Palm Oil and derivatives. They manufacture a range of own branded frying oils and bakery ingredients, as well as bulk products for industrial use in the food and personal care sectors, which is where we come in, using their bulk oil and converting it to soap.

New Britain Palm Oil palm is shipped from Papua New Guinea to the historic Liverpool docks, the oils is piped straight across from ship to tank before being Refined, Bleached and Deoderoized for use in a wide range of industires from your Fish & Chips to your bar of soap. It is a long and quite complex process to Refine Oils invoving distillation, to refine and remove certain fractions of the oil, acid clays to bleach the oil and elimiate impurities, along with stages of mechanical filtering, all done to convert the oil to what we call RBD and ready to use.

Here at Stephenson Personal Care we have some large tanks for soap making, but when you see a 300 Ton storage tank it makes you feel pretty small, so small in fact we had to take a picture. So here is a tank, sorry.

Every single drop of the Palm Oil in the products made at New Britain come from their own independently certified estates in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. They select only the finest seeds to grow and cultivate their elite trees with only the best sun ripened fruits selected for harvesting it is this strict process that ensures high quality oil in our soap bases. From planting the seeds to refining the oils in Liverpool they have total control of our supply chain and are able to trace all our products back to source.

Something that really stands out when you vist a refinery for vegtable oils is the sheer scale of production (as shown above) New Britain Oils are working incredibly hard to ensure that their oil is truly sustainable and commercially viable. There is nothing sustainable about premium niche supply for a commodity driven market. It is only when you physically see the volume we as a population consume can you really appreciate why sustainability steps must be made in order to protect long term feedstocks.

Processors and traders play an essential role in ensuring the flow and demand of sustainable palm oil through the supply chain to the customer. As a soap base supplier, our products may not carry an actual RSPO / Sustainable trademark. However, we established and have played a key role in developing a traceable segregated supply chain in order to support, promote and allow the RSPO trademark to be used on-pack by our downstream customers worldwide so understanding every aspect of our supply chain is crucial. Here is a picture of Pete finding out just how much Oil Palm they refine at New Britain.

New Britain Palm Oil Ltd (NBPOL) also go above and beyond just sourcing the Oil Palm and managing plantations ,their Foundation assists the local community surrounding its operations. The Foundation was established in 1997 as a registered charity in Papua New Guinea and set up for the improvement of health and education and for the relief of poverty for the people in the country, an aspect we will be looking at later this year.

We are proud to be partnered with New Britain Oils, and continue to search for companies that share our vision of transparent sustainable supply and production.