Wash your hands of palm oil

In 2009 we ran a campaign to highlight issues with palm oil

Palm oil was (and is!) a huge problem. With more and more demand for the oil, producers were clearing increasing amounts of rainforest ground to plant with palm to satisfy demand (and make more profit). It was a vicious circle, plant, clear, plant but the rainforest was disappearing at an alarming rate.

One way to halt rainforest destruction was to reduce demand. Lush decided to reduce its demand by removing palm oil from all of its soap bases sold in its shops.

The primary cause of rainforest loss was palm oil production and if action wasnt taken then 98% of of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests could be gone within ten years.

Palm oil production was also responsible for displacing indigenous people, resulting in violent clashes, misery and death. In Sumatra and Borneo the orangutan habitat was constantly being cleared as the ground was the perfect condition for palm to grow.

Another, less well known environmental impact was how the land for palm growing was prepared - the peat it contained was burnt off resulting in the production of 1400 million tonnes of carbon per annum making Indonesia the third largest producer of CO2 at the time.

Lush reformulated all of their soaps, removing the palm oil from the soap base and inventing a new palm free soap base made from coconut and rapeseed oils which are much more sustainable.

During the course of the campaign, a new soap, the first one made with the new palm free soap base, was launched. Called ‘jungle soap’ all of the proceeds from the sale of it were donated to the not for profit group, Rainforest Foundation. In Lush stores customers were invited to show that they wanted to wash their hands of palm by adding their green handprint to a tree painted on the store windows. They could then then wash their hands and receive a free sample of the soap made with the new palm oil free soap base so they wash their hands of palm at home as well.

Comments (13)


about 8 months ago

Like Lush, Greenpeace also said in 2006, that 98% of of Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests could be gone within 10 years. Today is 2017, and WorldBank's stats list Netherlands (Greenpeace's HQ) with 8% remaining forest, UK (WWF) 11%, Australia (POI) 16%, US (RAN) 30%, EU 35% --- while Indonesia 51% and Malaysia 67.6%. How are you going to reconcile this alarmist lie? Further, rapeseed and coconut require 15% and 30% more land hence the destruction to produce same amount of oil when compared with palm oil. Your "good intention" actually caused more problems due to misinformation and misguided cause. Please respond, as your so-called stats are faulty and against the prevailing statistics.

Lush Customer Care

about 8 months ago


Hi there! If you'd like to discuss this further with us; please feel free to email [email protected]


about 1 year ago

I am a Lush fan I admit. I have read all of the above and I say at least they are trying and recognise the need to steer away from palm oil, which should be everyone's responsibly not just Lush. They are doing a great thing by raising the issues and creating an alternative, which is not so hard to find on the 'high street'. I would rather give Lush my dosh any day of the week than that well known French company beginning with L; they do nothing for the environment, test on animals and offer nothing like palm oil free or like issues. lush are an independent with a cracking ethos which is why I like them.


about 2 years ago

The primary cause of rainforest loss was palm oil production and if action wasnt taken then 98% OF OF Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests could be gone within ten years. - Grammar error after 98% but good article !


about 2 years ago

"The primary cause of rainforest loss was palm oil production and if action wasnt taken then 98% OF OF Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests could be gone within ten years." spelling error after 98% but good article !

about 2 years ago

Coconut oil is not a very viable alternative to palm due to several factors - over-aged tress, smaller crops, lower efficiency. Palm and palm kernel and coconut oil and are rather unique in their chemistry in that they yield a certain cut = C12-14 (even length C chain...synthetically derived usually give only odd chain lengths.) SLS (the surfactant made from palm feedstock) is a phenomenally large product in the detergent and cosmetic industry - palm kernel oil is in about 70% or more of the cosmetic products produced - you cant really avoid it users! Also because ( as someone else mentioned) you can achieve a good foam with SLS, and people think only foam indicates cleaning (try that theory in your dishwasher!) Replacing palm or sourcing Segregated RSPO produced stock is always a good idea to avoid conflicts with the food industry and others (landowners etc) as well as helping to avoid de-forestation But the supply chain for palm oil is so complicated that non-sustainable palm finds its way into the chain very easily. Lush do a good job of raising awareness and working with sustainable choices within the restrictions of the industry. Ironically synthetic surfactants are often much better in terms of performance, biodegradeability, eco-toxicity, environmental persistence etc - they are designed to be so!

Kyle G

about 2 years ago

@sed Give it a rest. Without SLS, a huge proportion of cosmetic products wouldn't work, especially because it's firmly rooted in the mindset of most consumers that lather = cleanliness. What Lush have said to you is very fair and reasonable. They try, wherever possible, to source their ingredients and ensure they are palm oil free. But this isn't always possible due to some products containing palm oil undeclared via exploitation of current legislation. At least, unlike many cosmetics companies, Lush are making a huge effort to create products which are palm oil free, and to solve their dependency on SLS by creating an entirely new foaming agent which, when successful, will completely eliminate any palm oil from their products. I don't know what else you expect them to do and I think your slating of the company is ridiculous. They're a fantastic company, but they're not miracle workers, and they have to operate within reasonable restrictions as a business. So pipe down.


about 2 years ago

@Kyle G_2 It states below your name "Staff". Is this the case? If so then that would make you a representative of the company. Regardless of how "trivial" you may think Sed's views may be, they are very in line with the general beliefs of the Lush brand. Also they have a point, the fact that in 7 years they haven't found a solution to the vegetable oil situation would perhaps give the impression they have stopped trying. Even if the solution was non-lathering shampoos, customers who visit lush would understand if it was explained - we're not all as stupid as you so clearly think. So to tell someone "Give it a rest" and "pipe down" for standing up for their beliefs is very unfair. You could have still made your point by explaining that there is only a small chance vegetable oils contains crude palm oil and explain the steps Lush are currently taking to combat this issue. You didn't have to make Sed feel like they were wrong for having these concerns. I would think Lush want people to have the same passion as Sed - this is their worldwide aim, surely?


about 2 years ago

ARE LUSH PRODUCTS (even only soaps) PALM OIL OR FROM PALM OIL DERIVED INGREDIENTS FREE? 12.6.2015 I am writing this message to clear this issue in case someone would like to learn the clear answer. I also wrote and asked to LUSH the question above and the answer is that LUSH doesn't buy palm oil but LUSH buys ingredients which might be linked to palm oil. (For me actually it is the same thing). That ingredient is SLS. SLS used in LUSH products might be linked to palm oil. They cannot guarantee that SLS coming from a source other than palm oil. So any LUSH product that has SLS in it might be linked to palm oil. In other words even not all the soaps are palm oil ingredient free in 2015 since some of them have SLS as an ingredient. For the second time in other words> Lush still using this argument that it developed a new soap base with which it produced a soap called jungle (in 2009 I guess). But the story ends there and it was in year 2009. Even the customer manager who answered my question sent me an answer which I believe is a copy/paste of a text belonging to 2009, since it says "For this reason we created our own soap base earlier this year (2015/Sed added the date) and we are working on replacing any ingredients that cannot be fully traced". So Lush has stuck in 2009 related to issues of palm oil ingredients.For the last 6 years nothing changed, in terms of their production. I think what is worst is not that LUSH uses palm oil ingredients. Because I understand that it is almost in everything bubbling we use in our daily lives. It is so difficult to find an easily reachable palm oil ingredient free product. So I see it is the norm almost today and doing something without it requires courage, investment and etc.So what is WORST is this > LUSH tries to manipulate the information by giving indirect answers to questions related to palm oil, or by creating a public image as it is really against the use of palm oil ingredients. That is the worst especially when it markets itself as a caring company. I am sure that jungle soap campaign and all the public announcements of Lush against palm oil made it gain more customers. Because I surf through the internet and see through some forums and etc that all this palm oil free discourse LUSH used in theory (but not in practice) so far misled many people to think LUSH products are palm oil ingredients free while it has so many little products without palm oil ingredients. Am I surprised ? No.


about 3 years ago

This is so frustrating. When I am trying to get information about the use of palm oil in Lush products, I only reach to sources dated back to 2007 or 2008. 7 years ago. In most of those articles, news Lush claims to fight against the use of palm oil. One can not help but think that Lush does not use any palm oil in its products now. However than I see that Lush people say that the only palm free products are the soaps. Which soaps? Under the product label there over 20 products. So Lush does not use palm oil only in one out of 20 products? It is so confusing. If it is so, I mean if Lush`s only palm free product is couple of soaps why is it promoting this in a way that leads people to think Lush is almost palm free brand? Lush must clearly state which products are palm free on the ingredient list with the label POF on its site.