Halting misleading palm oil ads
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.
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]
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.
- about the ad here
- See a video FoEI video about the ills of palm oil plantations here
- read our report on Malaysian Palm Oil: green gold or greenwash.