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Iceland Christmas ad: What is palm oil and why was the supermarket’s advert banned?

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 09/11/2018 Laura Hampson, Tom Herbert

Iceland's Christmas advert highlighting the impact of palm oil production has been banned from TV after it was deemed "too political".

The supermarket giant launched its Christmas campaign on social media instead, with a video highlighting the environmental destruction caused by producing the oil.

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Iceland is a committed enivronmental campaigner, and earlier this year announced they would be banning palm oil from their own brand products by the end of 2018.

Their reason behind the decision to campaign for a "orangutan friendly Christmas" is because of palm oil's ‘harmful environmental impact.' The production of it has devastating impacts on wildlife and tropical forests.

What was Iceland’s Christmas ad?

a store front at day: image © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited image Unlike most other retailers, Iceland planned to use their Christmas advert this year to raise awareness with its short film Rang-tan.

Rang-tan is an animation telling the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production, and its devastating impact on the critically endangered orangutan.

It was hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread rainforest destruction for palm oil production, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products.

The advert would have seen Iceland committing over half a million pounds of media spend to ensure that it was seen by millions of consumers – a bold move away from the usual commercial, product-led advertising in order to highlight an important issue causing climate change and biodiversity loss.

It ends with: "Dedicated to the 25 orangutans we lose every day."

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: "The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

“Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”

Why was Iceland’s palm oil ad banned?

a close up of an animal © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited Iceland said the advert "may have proven a brave step too far as the advert was banned by advertising regulators", suggesting it was because of the message.

Watchdog Clearcast pointed out it is "not a regulator and we do not ban ads", and added: "Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear an ad for Iceland because we are concerned that it doesn’t comply with the political rules of the BCAP code."

What is palm oil?

A type of vegetable oil that is made from the fruit of oil palm trees.

It is the most commonly used vegetable oil with around 66 million tonnes produced each year – and it’s found in around half of all supermarket products.

How does palm oil impact the environment?

a close up of a plant: oil-palm-fruit-pixabay.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited oil-palm-fruit-pixabay.jpg

Over the past century, the demand for palm oil has risen dramatically which means large areas of tropical forest in south-east Asia and Africa have been destroyed as a result

Between 1990 and 2008 palm oil production was responsible for 8 per cent of the world’s deforestation as forests are burnt to clear areas for people to grow oil palms – which, in some cases, is illegal.

Burning these forests means destroying the habitats for wildlife and plants in the area, with elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos among the animals affected.

In fact, around 100,000 orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015 due to palm oil production, other animals are being pushed to extinction and indigenous people are losing their homes.

Furthermore, destruction of rainforests contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions which contributes to climate change.

What products contain palm oil?

a river running through a forest: globalwarming0810m.jpg © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited globalwarming0810m.jpg Many everyday products contain palm oil including lipstick, shampoo, detergent, chocolate, biscuits, soap, ice cream and pizza dough – so it would be hard to avoid it completely.

The solution? More efforts need to be made to monitor and make sure the palm oil being made it being made sustainably, without harming animals and forests during the process.

Why do companies use palm oil?

Dr Emma Keller from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told BBC Newsround: "Palm oil is a super-efficient crop, meaning that we can produce a lot more palm oil per area of land compared to other oil crops like soybean oil or coconut oil."

Palm oil production has also provided jobs for “millions of small farmers”, helping them to get out of poverty.

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