After fighting to get some honest answers on just how palm oil free LUSH really is, I was read this prepared statement over the phone, and then emailed it from the store too.
“Palm oil is a tricky one, it’s a very complicated subject and palm has roots in the most ‘innocent’ seeming of places. It can be listed and sold legally as ‘vegetable’ oil. It’s present as ‘vegetable oil’ in many foods, and the general public can be seemingly unaware that they’re eating it.
As a company we hate palm oil. We are massively into sustainable permaculture and have invested millions in small communities around the world in order to prove to the world that sustainability is achievable even in this day and age.
We were as far as we are aware, the first major cosmetics company to get rid of palm oil from our soap bases. We actually offered this palm-free recipe freely to any company that wanted to use it as we encouraged other companies to reduce the palm they used.
In regards to your question we cannot fully trace all of the ingredients from our surfectants and emulsifiers. There’s an incredibly small chance that the vegetable oil in some batches of SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) and Sodium Stearate as well as Stearic Acid we buy in were made with it. It’s more likely they use generic vegetable and coconut oils, but yes there is a small chance it could be palm.
What are we doing about it? Well last year we started trials with ‘Sorbitol’ as a foaming agent instead. This was fairly successful and we’ll be looking into using this more as we used it for all of our Christmas soaps last year. We’ve also now successfully created our own unique soap base which is made in-house, fully traceable and palm free.
We’ve also released Movis face and body cleanser and our ‘Gourmet Soaps’ in Oxford Street – all of which are 100% palm free with zero chance of any being part of the production process. These are proving successful!
With our products and formulations, changing the base and the way they foam can change the way the product functions and we have to consider the customer demand and what they expect from our products. So right now we understand that not having full traceability isn’t the best – but unlike a lot of other companies we are desperately trying to improve, reformulate, trial and reformulate again. It’s a much longer process than it seems, but behind the scenes we are working like busy busy bees trying to make ourselves 100% palm free and aim for this within the next couple of years.”
This is really positive statement isn’t it? They’re working really hard. They want to be 100% palm oil free. They know they’re not doing the best. So what’s my problem with it?
The fact that every level of customer service I encountered last week told me the company was already palm oil free!
“…we cannot fully trace all of the ingredients from our surfactants and emulsifiers“- In which case they don’t know if they come from palm oil. You can see from my page ‘What The Manufacturers Say’ that many of them can trace their ingredients. So why can’t LUSH? If their current suppliers won’t be honest with them, why not find new suppliers who will?
“There’s an incredibly small chance that the vegetable oil in some batches of SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulphate) and Sodium Stearate as well as Stearic Acid we buy in were made with it.” But if they don’t ‘know’ the origin then the risk could be high, couldn’t it? And if there is palm oil there, and they don’t know it, then they’re not ensuring it’s from sustainable sources. This statement also doesn’t account for ingredients such as Propylene Glycol, Cetearyl Alcohol or Lauryl Betaine. (Who knew those words would become such a part of my daily vocabulary?!)
[By the way, if you’re unsure which names you should be looking out for, print out this A-Z list from Palm Oil Investigations or save it to your favourites. I’m having to look at it multiple times a day!]
“It’s more likely they use generic vegetable and coconut oils, but yes there is a small chance it could be palm” – But their earlier paragraph stated generic vegetable oil could be palm oil? And again, how can they assess likelihood or risk if they simply don’t know?
“We’ve also now successfully created our own unique soap base” – This was made in 2009. That’s six years ago. For six years LUSH has ridden on the wave of ecological adoration for washing its hands of palm oil. Six years ago LUSH said it was “working with its vendors to find out how much palm oil is in these ingredients and what surrogates exist“. Yet still they can’t tell us?
“…changing the base and the way they foam can change the way the product functions and we have to consider the customer demand and what they expect from our products” – As a customer I ‘expected’ LUSH products to be cruelty-free, sustainable, and honest. As a customer do you prefer a foaming shampoo at the expense of an orang-utan baby’s life? As a customer do you think the bubbles on your sponge are more important that the millions of Indonesian’s being able to breathe clean air instead breathing in toxic smoke from the illegal forest fires?
LUSH does sell palm oil free products. But LUSH is not palm oil free. LUSH cannot tell us if the palm oil it accidentally uses is sustainable. And if you want them to be honest about this fact, please tell them!