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Halting misleading palm oil ads

by UrskaMerc — last modified Mar 31, 2008 12:30 PM

When the Malaysian Palm Oil Council put out a television advertisement making claims about its "sustainable" palm oil in 2007, Friends of the Earth International reported the council to the UK advertising watchdog and won. Now in 2009 Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland are taking the Council to task again.

foei victory in bid to halt misleading palm oil adsPalm oil plantations in Malaysia and the wider region are responsible for massive forest destruction, carbon dioxide emissions, and broad environmental and social ills.


In an edition of the Economist in April 2009 the Malaysian Palm Oil Council referred to their product as "the green answer".


They claimed that "what makes palm oil so attractive is that its production puts minimal strain on the environment.”


Additionally they stated that: “Palm oil is the only product available to sustainably and efficiently meet a large proportion of the world‟s increasing demand for oil crop-based consumer goods, foodstuff and biofuels”


Friends of the Earth totally refutes the claims and we believe they are in contravention of UK advertising regulations as there is insufficient evidence to back these up and many more. As a result Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland have filed a complaint to the UK Advertising Standards Association (ASA).


Read the complaint here [PDF]


Update: On September 10, 2009 the ASA ruled in our favour.


Background to the 2007 complaint

In 2007 an advertisement appeared on UK television from the Malaysian Palm Oil Council. The images and text of the television ad portrayed Malaysian palm oil as green and environmentally friendly, using statements such as "a gift from nature, a gift for life" and "helping the planet breathe", as well as images of oil palm trees and tropical rainforests. In particular, the final sentence "sustainably produced since 1917" is clearly misleading - the consumer is likely to take from the term that palm oil is produced without harming the environment in any way. The footage in the advertisement, by hinting that palm oil production does not harm trees or contribute to deforestation, also misleads the consumer into believing palm oil is "sustainably produced".

Making its official complaint to the UK Advertising Standards Agency, FoEI stated that it strenuously opposes the palm oil council’s reference to so-called "sustainable" palm oil. On January 9, 2008, FoEI’s complaint was fully upheld, as the UK ad watchdog agreed there was no evidence to support the Council's claim that palm oil is sustainably produced. The watchdog further deemed the adverts to be misleading, and stated they should not be broadcast again.

More information:


photo credit: myrthe verweij



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