Greenwash of the Week: Malaysian Palm Oil Council

posted by Stan Ran

The Malaysian Palm Oil Council is promoting their product as the green alternative to oil (of the non-Malaysian Palm variety). They’re running a series of ads each ending in “Sustainably produced since 1917”. I’m all for turning people away from the sticky black goo, but mowing down pristine rainforests to do so is not what I call sustainable.

I’ve embedded one of their ads below. We’ve found that “count the number of rainforest species that can’t be supported by a palm oil plantation” to be quite a fun (and challenging!) game to play while watching it.

Lest you think RAN is a lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, it should be noted that these ads triggered the wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority, who upheld all 4 counts of alleged truth-stretching.

Because MPOC had not provided substantiation to show that all palm oil plantations in Malaysia met criteria for sustainable production (not least because those criteria were not yet in existence), we concluded that the claim “sustainably produced” was likely to mislead.

On this point, the ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.2.6 (Environmental claims).

The ads should not reappear in their current form.

The ASA operates over in jolly old England, where there’s actually a code for broadcast advertising and violations are noted by the national media. Here in the US, what passes for truth on television is a bit more lax.