The Truth About Palm Oil + How Thrive Market Is Setting a New Standard

Last Update: December 1, 2022

Did you know that palm oil is the most consumed oil in the world? It’s found in everything from snacks and ice cream to cosmetics and biofuel—in fact, about 50 percent of the packaged goods you see in the supermarket today contain palm oil or one of its derivatives. Because palm oil is often masked as other ingredients (think: glycerin), it can be really hard to know whether you’re using it.

All of this popularity comes at a cost: Palm oil production is wreaking havoc on the planet and contributing to environmental destruction at an alarming rate. Here, we’re taking a closer look at the problem and all the ways Thrive Market is working to make a difference.

The Ugly Truth About Palm Oil

Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fruit of the oil palm tree, which grows in tropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. The global demand for this golden liquid has more than doubled in the last 10 years, for two key reasons: relatively low production cost and high yield.

But rapid growth often comes with grave consequences, and in this case, the environment is taking the hit. Indonesia and Malaysia supply 85 percent of the world’s palm oil, but they’re also home to some of the most vital rainforests on the planet. Palm oil producers burn down and clear these ancient rainforests to make way for massive palm oil plantations, causing extensive species loss, deforestation, air pollution, soil erosion, and exploitation of indigenous communities.

Orangutan in Borneo

An estimated 877,000 acres of rainforest and wild peatlands are lost every year in Borneo due to palm oil production, and the orangutan population has declined by more than 100,000 since 1999. In Sumatra, there are now fewer than 14,000 orangutans left and more than half of the rainforest on the island has been destroyed.

But wait—it gets worse. Wild peatlands sequester millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so when they’re burned, they release 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional forest fires.

Finding a Sustainable Solution

Boycotting palm oil altogether may seem like the easiest solution, but it could do more harm than good. Large palm oil plantations could end up being used to produce other crops that require more land, or converted to livestock pastures, leading to more environmental destruction. According to the Smithsonian Institute, the best thing we can do as consumers is pressure major companies to convert to sustainable palm oil and adopt strict practices that will help regenerate some of what has been lost.

Luckily, there’s a program working to facilitate that change: the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The RSPO is a global certification system designed to transform the production of sustainable palm oil at each step in the entire supply chain, from plantation to processing plant to shelf. To be considered for certification, a supplier must comply with a set of eight principles:

  • Commitment to transparency
  • Compliance with applicable laws and regulations
  • Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
  • Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
  • Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
  • Responsible consideration of employees, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills
  • Responsible development of new plantings
  • Commitment to continuous improvement of new activity

By buying products with the RSPO seal of approval, you can help support sustainable palm oil initiatives and motivate other companies to do the same.

The Thrive Market Commitment

You don’t have to stress about reading labels when you shop at Thrive Market, because we’ve already done the vetting for you. Every item from Thrive Market Goods adheres to the highest standards of sustainability in the industry. To make the cut, any item that contains palm oil must come from a sustainable, ethical, and responsible source.

“The sourcing our team has done around palm oil is setting a new industry standard,” says Nick Green, founder and CEO of Thrive Market. “Wherever possible, we’ve introduced alternative oils—like coconut—and where not, we’ve located sustainable palm oil sources exclusively from Central and South America. A great example is the supplier for the palm oil in our sweetened nut butters, who is Certified Organic, certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and a member of the Rainforest Alliance.”

How You Can Make a Difference

We can all do our part to help end the destruction of the rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia. If consumers demand that big corporations make the switch to sustainable palm oil, they’ll be forced to clean up their act. An easy way to get involved? Start by spreading awareness and encouraging others to only buy products that use sustainable and responsible palm oil.

“Actions like these are how we can prevent environmental tragedies like the ones in Indonesia and Malaysia from happening in the future,” Green says. “And when we do enough of it, with enough scale, and others begin to join us, it’s how we will turn the tide on climate change.”

Eco-Friendly Palm Oil Products

From sweetened almond butter to cassava chips, these member-favorite products only use sustainably and ethically sourced palm oil, so you can feel good about snacking.

Sweetened Nut Butters

Non-GMO Sweetened Almond Butter

Our Non-GMO Sweetened Almond Butter is paleo, gluten-free, and made from wholesome ingredients like almonds, responsibly sourced palm oil, Himalayan pink salt, and a touch of coconut sugar.

“This is the BEST almond butter I’ve ever tasted. The hint of sweetness really makes it irresistible! Plus, it uses RSPO palm oil, which is a must for me.—Hillary, Hollywood, CA

Organic Sweetened Peanut Butter

Crafted from simple ingredients like peanuts, responsibly sourced palm oil, Himalayan pink salt, and a bit of coconut sugar, our Organic Sweetened Peanut Butter is the perfect creamy companion for rice cakes, apple slices, or breakfast smoothies.

“Okay, I love this peanut butter. It’s so good and creamy, and so easy to squeeze out and put on sandwiches for my kids’ pb&j…no messes!! #momapproved”—Coleen, Placerville, CA

Non-GMO Cassava Chips, Chili Lime

Travel to the tropics with our Chili Lime Cassava Chips! They hail from Colombia, where the cassava roots are harvested, sliced, and kettle-cooked in sustainably sourced South American palm oil, then seasoned with zesty spices.

“These chips are so delicious and settle my cravings. Great with some spicy lime salsa!”—Paris, San Diego, CA

Non-GMO Plantain Chips, Naturally Sweet

Our Naturally Sweet Plantain Chips are ethically sourced from Colombia, where volcanic soil and high altitudes yield the most delicious plantains. Each batch is hand-picked ripe, sliced lengthwise, and kettle-cooked in sustainable South American palm oil.

“These are so tasty. They have the perfect amount of crunch and are great to snack on.”—Maycee, Maryville, MO

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Melinda Gross

Melinda writes about health, wellness, and food for the Thrive Market blog. She started her career as a financial journalist in NYC and has written for Where Magazine, Worth, Forbes, and When she's not reading or writing, she enjoys working out, sketching, and playing with her daughter and mini-dachshund, Goliath.

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