By David Lidsky
Sodium laureth sulphate. Sodium lauryl sulphates. Glyceryl stearate. Cetyl palmitate. Palm kernel oil. If you take even a few minutes to read the labels on the products in your pantry and bathroom—from peanut butter to sunscreen—you’ll see these ingredients (and many other similar-sounding ones) over and over again.
Guess what? As the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) observed way back in 2011, they’re all palm oil. “It’s in half of all consumer goods,” says Emma Rae Lierley, a RAN spokesperson. “It’s one of the most widely used vegetable oils on the planet.
In the food and beauty industries, palm oil functions like Klay Thompson on the Golden State Warriors NBA championship teams: Not the most valuable player, but an essential ingredient that makes everything around it better. The costs of that functionality, though, are that companies burn down tropical rainforests to create palm oil plantations, and palm oil production often relies upon child labor and modern slavery to operate.