Lush Cosmetics have again broken ground in the cosmetics industry by launching a new soap bar that does not contain palm oil. It took two years to develop the new soap base, which is a mixture of rapeseed, sunflower and coconut oils. The new bar, rather cleverly named “Greenwash”, is available at the moment in a festive Christmas tree shape. Ruth Andrade, the company’s Environmental Officer, introduces the product in her blog.

Palm oil is big business. It is a major ingredient in foods and cosmetics, and is also the base for some so-called bio-fuels. In Indonesia, millions of hectares of rain forest are being cleared to make way for unsustainable palm oil plantations, in response to industry demand, and sadly, the demand is increasing in response to consumer demands for non-fossil fuels. Of course, not all bio-fuels are produced this way, and not all palm oil comes from unsustainable sources, but the issues are complex, unsurprisingly. This short video gives a good introduction:

It is not only climate change and the impact on the local economies and traditions that is at issue. The region’s wildlife also depends on the rain forests, and is in imminent danger of extinction. The orang-utan and the Sumatran tiger in particular are at great risk. According to United Nations environment programme estimates, at the present rate of loss, all rain forests in Borneo and Sumatra will have been destroyed, and with them both species of orang-utan will have been wiped out.


Although Lush are not promising to stop using palm oil completely, they will be testing the new base with all of of existing soap formulae and if successful, they hope to phase out the palm oil base within the next year. They have also added an orang-utan charity to their Charity Pot scheme. Each time you buy the Charity Pot hand cream, all the revenue after tax goes to one of their supported charities, which now include the Sumatran Orang-Utan Trust.


For more information, try Friends of the Earth or the excellent Films4Conservation website, where you can find some high resolution photos, some of which illustrate this article.




  1. 1 Michelle Desilets November 22, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Hopefully more and more products will be made without palm oil or with only 100% Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. If consumers demand this, there may be some hope for orangutans. Please remember also to help the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, the only organisation in the world actively rescuing wild orangutans from certain death in the oil-palm plantations.

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