Meet Segolene Royal: She’s France’s ecology minister who, during the third week of June, asked people to stop buying Nutella. Is she insane, or…?
Well, it turns out she had a pretty good reason for the request, considering her job is to promote sustainability in her country and all. Nutella is made with palm oil which, according to Royal, is the culprit of mass deforestation and other environmental problems the world is facing today.
Legit? Yes. Painful? Absolutely.
Palm oil is primarily harvested from tropical rain forest regions. Unfortunately, these places (which are already facing problems due to climate change) have become increasingly threatened by the popularity of the vegetable oil product.
Animals are losing their habitats, biodiversity is decreasing and species are facing extinction due to the impact palm oil production has on its surrounding environment. There are even human rights issues associated with the stuff, like child labor, disgraceful working conditions and people group displacement.
According to this website, 50 million tons of palm oil are produced each year. It seems excessive until you learn that practically half of your household objects contain palm oil in some way or another. It’s in countless products including ice cream, shampoo, pizza dough, instant noodles, chocolate and even mascara.
Clearly Nutella isn’t the only product on the market that lists palm oil as one of its main ingredients, so it’s interesting that Royal singled out this beautiful cocoa hazelnut spread among the many viable candidates.
Perhaps she wanted to hit people where it hurt in order to make her point.
Even if that wasn’t Royal’s intention, her request definitely got people’s attention, including the notice of the lovely people at Ferrero (aka the brains behind the Nutella name).
A couple days after her first remarks, Royal showered Ferrero with “a thousand apologies” after the company voiced the fact that it has been sustainably sourcing 100% of its palm oil in accordance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil since January.
So instead of calling out the bad guys, Royal instead made a mess for the leaders who are revolutionizing the palm oil industry in a good way.
So what have we learned here, folks? Nutella is never wrong.
In all seriousness, this little snafu actually brought to light the drawbacks of a substance our society is very much dependent upon. Just from my own exposure to the news, I now view palm oil like I never did before – with an opinion on both its repercussions and its benefits.
Nutella’s association with the palm oil problem made it into something people finally noticed, and if that isn’t the power of food, I don’t know what is. Maybe Nutella can change the world, after all.