How we work: Information about the topic of palm oil

What is palm oil?

Palm oil is a plant oil which is extracted from the fruits of oil palms. In addition, there is palm kernel oil which is obtained by pressing the pits of the fruits. Both oils are used today as a raw material in a vast number of products for daily use. These include food products (for example, margarines and cooking fats) as well as non-food products (for example, detergents and cleaning agents, cosmetics) and numerous technical applications (for example, lubricants, varnishes).

Why is palm oil the subject of criticism?

Worldwide, about 60 million tons of palm oil are consumed annually. Among other things, this is a consequence of the increasing global population (in Asian countries, palm oil is used as a local product for cooking, baking and frying) and the growing consumption of processed products. In addition, the reduction in petroleum-based raw materials, for example, in the bioenergy field, plays a role – even if this is of course desirable.

The growing worldwide demand leads to the large-scale clearing of tropical forests palm oil plantations – a threat to the biodiversity in countries which cultivate oil palms.

Can palm oil simply be avoided?

Palm oil and palm oil products fulfill very particular functions – in cosmetic production, palm-oil-based cosmetic raw ingredients, known as palm oil derivatives, are used as surfactants or emulsifiers, for example. Thus they cannot be omitted from cosmetic formulations without being replaced. They would have to be replaced by other oils and derivatives.

However, the possible alternatives in the cosmetic field have a much lower yield and consequently avoiding palm oils and switching to other oils would also result in ecological problems over a far greater area.

Thus there is the question of how the need for palm oil can be sustainably produced.

The WWF has created an infographic showing land usage of plant oils ((Link:

Sustainable palm oil

All efforts made for sustainable cultivation of oil palms must be pursued consistently. However, certified, segregated palm and palm kernel oil derivatives – due to the complex value chains – are currently not yet available on a sufficient scale.

For this reason, in the case of derivatives, the Mass Balance (RSPO MB module) method must generally still be used: In this method, palm oil from certified plantations in the value chain is mixed with conventional palm oil – with the aim of increasing the proportion of sustainable palm oil as quickly as possible. 

Kneipp is a member in the sustainable palm oil forum (FONAP). This forum works specifically to "significantly increase the proportion of segregated, certified palm oil and palm kernel oil or associated derivatives in the German, Austrian and Swiss market and to make 100% segregated, certified palm oil and palm kernel oil available for these markets as quickly as possible."

In addition, the forum and its members commit to the further development and improvement in the existing certification systems and the introduction of important additional ecological criteria. 

More information on Mass-Balance and FONAP.

What is in Kneipp products?

Kneipp does not use palm oil and palm kernel oil. However, we cannot in all cases avoid derivatives based on palm kernel oil: Surfactants or emulsifiers are essential in cosmetic production, for example.

For the above reasons, the switch from palm oil derivatives to derivatives of other plant oils would be useful in only a very small number of cases. However, we are very carefully examining - for each individual raw material - the extent to which avoiding palm-oil-based raw materials is possible and above all ecologically suitable.

Within the framework of the Kneipp FONAP membership, we have also committed to using at least 25 percent certified palm oil derivatives according to the Mass Balance model. We will continuously expand these proportions according to a graduated plan specified by FONAP so that by 2020, we are using all palm oil derivatives as Mass-Balance-certified goods. 

Until then, we will cover the remaining portion of palm oil derivatives through certificates which help support more sustainable cultivation of oil palms.   

And what exactly are palmitates?

Due to the similar-sounding names, palmitates are frequently confused with palm oil products. However, the term "palmitate" refers to salts and esters of palmitic acid. Palmitic acid in turn is a fatty acid which can be extracted from all plant oils. Thus from the name, it should not at all be concluded that palm oil or palm kernel oil was used as a raw material.

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