The perils of palm oil are getting widespread attention in the UK at present in an unprecedented way.
It follows the banning of supermarket chain Iceland’s Christmas advert from TV for being “too political”.
The supermarket made a deal with Greenpeace to reuse an animated film that the environmental organisation had created about palm oil, for its 2018 festive commercial.
The advert was released on social media, but Clearcast, the organisation which approves ads for TV, blocked the ad from appearing from TV, deeming it breached political advertising rules.
The short animation, voiced by English actress Dame Emma Thompson, tells the story of baby Rang-tan as she causes mischief in a little girl’s bedroom. Just as the girl is about to banish her, she asks Rang-tan what brought her there. Rang-tan’s memories are harrowing. They show her forest home destroyed, trees burning, huge machines hacking others to the ground and her mother lying injured.
Iceland hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread rainforest destruction for palm oil production, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products.
Rang-tan tells the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production and its devastating impact on the critically endangered orangutan – a fact that people need to be aware of globally.
The furore over the advert has put palm oil on the radar, quite possibly even more than had the advert not banned. The advert has since made a public appearance on the UK’s primetime morning show, This Morning, where presenter Phillip Schofield praised the advert, saying it was “right” to be broadcast.
Earlier this year Iceland announced they would be banning palm oil from their own brand products by the end of 2018.
Iceland said it had spent around £500,000 on the Ran-tan advert, booking “primetime” TV slots through its media agency 7stars.
Unable to show the full animation, the brand will instead show 10-second clips that promote its palm oil-free products.
Richard Walker, managing director for Iceland Food group said: “We wanted [the Greenpeace film] to be our signature campaign. We have said repeatedly we are not anti-palm oil, we are anti-deforestation.
“We think this is a huge story that needs to be told. We always knew there was a risk but we gave it our best shot.”
An Iceland spokesperson added: “The production and widespread usage of palm oil is a complex and sometimes controversial matter.
“However, it was never Iceland’s intention to use its Christmas advert to support a political campaign – rather to raise awareness and solidify our position on not using palm oil in food production.”
An online petition to “release Iceland’s banned Christmas advert on TV” also has more than 680,000 signatures.
Since Iceland decided to launch its campaign on social media instead, the advert has been hugely successful, with 13 million views on its Facebook page alone.
And so Iceland’s intention of raising awareness about palm oil has succeeded by any means necessary and by whatever channels necessary.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea