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Following our successful campaign to eliminate all single-use plastic from 15Hatfields, palm oil was next on our agenda as London’s leading sustainable events venue.

For over two and a half years, the team at 15Hatfields have been working to establish the extent of the palm oil problem and identify alternatives that are both palm oil free and effective. After conducting audits across all areas of the organisation and liaising with our supply chain, we were on the cusp of becoming the UK’s first palm oil free venue.

On page 25 of the September 2022 issue of Conference News, our General Manager Warren Campbell discusses the proliferation of this vegetable oil across many products and the challenges that have temporarily stalled our progress towards becoming 100% palm oil free.

So, what’s all the fuss about? Continue reading for insights into the palm oil problem and why the solution requires collaboration across venues, supply chains and the events industry.

Why is palm oil produced?

Demand for vegetable oils has increased significantly over the last 50 years. This has contributed to a rapid rise in the production of palm oil due to its versatile properties, high yield, and low price in comparison to other vegetable oils.

What are the consequences?

Deforestation occurs primarily to clear land for meat, soya and palm oil production. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), forests contain more than three quarters of the world’s land-based life. They are home to 750 million people and endangered species, including orangutans and jaguars. In addition to the devastating impacts on local communities and wildlife, deforestation significantly contributes to climate change by disrupting the critical role that trees play in mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.

Which products contain it?

Said to be in 50% of supermarket products, palm oil has spread across the food and cleaning industries. It is commonly found in biscuits, chocolate, margarine and pastry dough. It is often used as a foaming agent in soap and can be found in most detergents. This year reliance on palm oil has been exacerbated by disruption to the supply of sunflower oil, arising from the conflict in Ukraine.

How can it be identified?

Palm oil and its hundreds of derivatives can appear on ingredient lists and labels under an extensive range of names. Some of these names and umbrella terms are more easily associated with palm oil than others e.g., ‘palm kernel’, ‘palmate’ and ‘palmitate’. In other cases, the potential presence of palm oil is not so obvious e.g., ‘glyceryl’, ‘stearic acid’ and ‘sodium lauryl’.

The ongoing sunflower oil shortage has further complicated the palm oil identification process. In spring 2022 the Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued new labelling guidance in response to imminent shortages of sunflower oil. This guidance set out a list of oils, including palm oil, which food businesses can use to substitute sunflower oil without being required to update their labelling.

Despite these obstacles, we remain committed to our goal of becoming a palm oil free venue in the future. Recent developments in food labelling mean that, for the time being, we are not able to guarantee that foods being served at 15Hatfields are 100% free from palm oil. However, event planners and guests can trust that in recent years have made huge strides towards eradicating the presence of palm oil at our venue. Our mission continues in other areas of our business, as we continue to track down palm oil free cleaning products and consumables.

As the official venue of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the impact on environmental and public health is considered in every decision at 15Hatfields. See our News page to keep up-to-date with our ongoing search for new ways to reduce the carbon footprint of the events industry and contact our expert team to discuss your next event.