An unlikely hero in the corporate fight for protecting the planet, when Iceland unveiled their Christmas advert for 2018 it set off a change in consumers perception of what was once thought of as a frozen food supermarket. Iceland’s “Rang-tan” ad was deemed too political to be shown on TV, but what Clearcast didn’t count on was how viral the“Rang-tan” ad would actually go, reaching millions of people.
Many celebrities, such as Stephen Fry and James Cordon, have been supporting the campaign increasing shares between people on social media, meaning that people who may not have watched the ad are now tuning in to see what is so controversial about it. At this moment there has been over 30million views across social media, mainly on Twitter and Facebook, and 5.1million views on Iceland’s YouTube channel alone. A petition has been started calling for Clearcast to show the ad on TV, with over 1 million signatures, and more to be expected.
So what is the big deal with Palm Oil?
Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet, and is found in products like chocolate, soap, bread and many other daily products we use. While palm oil can be a very efficient and sustainable crop, as it uses less chemicals than are needed by other vegetable oil crops, there are some palm oil suppliers who are not operating ethically.These unethical suppliers supply to some of the world’s largest brands including Unilever, Nestle and Colgate-Palmolive, and according to a Greenpeace report have destroyed an area of rainforest almost twice the size of Singapore in less than 3 years.
The palm oil industry is also a leading driver in the catastrophic effects on the population of the Borneo Orangutans, which is the focus of the Iceland advert, with palm oil farming destroying their homes and wiping over half of the population out in just 16 years. It’s not just orangutans that are suffering though, tigers, elephants and 193 critically endangered species are at risk as a direct result of the palm oil industry.
The deforestation that is happening isn’t just causing the loss of habitat for endangered animals; it is also increasing greenhouse gas emissions, meaning it is contributing to climate change. With the UN’s latest report on climate change, is this not the time when governments and businesses around the world need to be doing everything they can to prevent this from happening? Another side that’s not really spoken about when it comes to the industry is the consequences to the local people, with the industry often exploiting workers, children and the local communities to get what they want.
Clearcast have responded to both the backlash and petitions by stating that the reason for the advert ban was in fact that Greenpeace, which is classed as a political organisation, created the advert and political advertising is not allowed on British television due to BCAP rules. They stated that they are only following the guidelines set out by ASA, and the potential to have the advert cleared lies in the hands of Greenpeace, who needs to provide them with more information before the ad can go ahead. However many consumers have questioned how they came to this decision, and if they are being paid under the table, since many big businesses use unsustainable palm oil in their products.
To make it clear, these brands are not being asked to stop using palm oil in their products altogether, but rather choose more ethically and think about the wider effects on the planet and animals when choosing unsustainable palm oil suppliers. While governments must play their part in making sustainable change, businesses also have to take responsibility, and start becoming more aware of where the palm oil is sourced from and take their money to a more ethical supplier.
Iceland’s Christmas ad has only done positive things for the awareness of the palm oil industry and the devastating impacts caused, meaning more consumers are becoming conscious shoppers and voting with their wallets. More and more businesses are seeing this and changing the way they do business, so our voices do count. Iceland have committed to stop using palm oil in all of its own label products by the end of 2018, with more brands expected to follow suit.
Since the advert started gaining attention and more consumers have become aware of the stance that Iceland is taking on palm oil, the frozen food retailer reported 5% sales growth and gained 0.1% of the market,as it appeals to a wider demographic. These statistics show that we are becoming more ethical as consumers, and brands will need to keep up if they want shoppers to remain loyal to them.
What can you do?
Palm oil is found in a range of products from beauty to food, so if you sell any of these items make sure you know more about the supply chain, find out where the palm oil is sourced from and if it is sustainable. If you are unable to find out, or they do in fact contain unsustainable palm oil, refuse to sell these products and refuse to trade with the suppliers. If you are a palm oil free business, let your customers know about it, and raise awareness on how they can make a difference too. You can find sustainable palm oil suppliers and growers at RSPO.