Skincare and palm oil







Some of the biggest names in skincare including Clarins, Estée Lauder and and Superdrug, as well as ‘ethical’ brands Jason skin-care and Avalon skin-care today face criticism from environmental campaigners following the publication of a new survey which implicates many skincare companies in the destruction of tropical rainforests.

In the survey carried out by the Rainforest Foundation UK (RFUK) and Ethical Consumer magazine over 25 of the UK's biggest skincare companies were surveyed on their use of palm oil or its derivatives, a key cosmetic ingredient.

The survey was carried out in response to the increasing threat that unsustainable palm oil is posing to the world’s rainforests, and consequently, to the people that rely almost entirely on these forests for their livelihoods.

The survey results form the latest part of RFUK's 'Appetite for Destruction?' consumer guide to palm oil content in products which already includes chocolate, bread and biscuit products.

Having destroyed vast areas of forest in countries including Indonesia which is home to orang utans, palm oil companies are now planning to expand into the rainforests of the Congo Basin in Africa, home to lowland gorillas and other threatened primates.


Simon Counsell, Executive Director of The Rainforest Foundation UK said:

“Today we call on these companies to face up to their environmental responsibilities, reduce their use of palm oil, and help ensure the long-term survival of the Congo rainforest, its people and unique wildlife.”


Leonie Nimmo researcher at Ethical Consumer said:

“The ugly truth is that whilst companies such as Clarins and Estée Lauder are involved in the beauty business, their products are implicated in some of the biggest acts of environmental destruction in the world.”


The top scoring companies in the survey include little Satsuma, Pure Nuff Stuff and REN.


The skincare survey is the latest initiative of a campaign to encourage consumers to buy products that have the top rated palm oil policies, forcing those companies that are not taking their environmental responsibilities seriously to use more sustainably sourced palm oil.




Editor’s Notes

1 The full product guide can be seen here:


2 RFUK and Ethical Consumer’s collaborative guide Appetite for Destruction was launched this Easter with information on chocolate Easter eggs.

3 Palm oil is a core ingredient in many food products and companies are not required by EU law to label products containing it until December 2014.

4 According to the recent RFUK report Seeds of Destruction, one million acres of rainforest in the Congo Basin is currently being developed by palm oil producers, and with 284 million acres of suitable soil in the region, developers are actively seeking large sites now.

It also details the huge impacts that the current and future development will have on the 500,000 indigenous people living in the endangered rainforest.

For the full report and the responses of palm oil developers active in the Congo basin prior to the publication of the report visit:


Maps, graphics and images are available for media use here.


5 Methodology

Ethical Consumer has ranked companies’ practices and policies in relation to their palm oil sourcing for the joint Rainforest Foundation UK and Ethical Consumer palm oil campaign. For a full breakdown of the methodology adopted to conduct this research, please visit: