Our Palm-Free Soap Base

As many of our devoted customers may already know, over two years ago we put our ethics into practice by removing palm oil from our soap base.
After taking a trip to Indonesia, the largest supplier of palm oil in the world, we discovered just how devastating the effects of harvesting palm oil were; massive deforestation, indigenous peoples being displaced and animals being left without their food source. We decided the only responsible thing to do was stop our use of palm oil, and create a new soap using only sustainable materials. By switching to a palm-free base, we’ve cut our usage by 350,000 kg a year! This decision changed our soap a bit, but we think it worked out wonderfully for the environment and the quality of our soap. We know our customers have their favorite soaps-ones they simply can’t live without, so we were careful to make sure they stayed better than ever!

Wash Your Hands of Palm Oil

Most of you shop with LUSH not only because we make wonderful handmade products for your bath, hair and body but also because of who we are and what we believe in. When we create our products, environmental and social concerns play a major role in the ingredients we ever so carefully select.

For several years, we have been concerned with the environmental and social issues surrounding the use of palm oil in cosmetics, food and bio-fuels. During a recent trip to Indonesia to explore the palm oil industry, we witnessed firsthand the grave impact it has on Asian rainforests, wildlife and indigenous people - massive deforestation, Indigenous peoples being forced from their homes and the orangutans being pushed to the brink of extinction.

As our beliefs are at the heart of everything we do, we knew that we had to take action immediately and minimize our use of palm oil, (and hopefully save some rainforests along the way). The cosmetics industry uses approximately 6-7% of the world’s palm oil, and  it’s a main ingredient in many soaps. Upon our return from Indonesia we rushed back to the LUSH labs and for almost a year worked in partnership with a leading UK soap-base manufacturer, Kay’s, to develop the world’s first commercially available palm-free soap base. Cracking this formula wasn’t easy, but after a lot of sweat we’ve finally got it right.

LUSH North America has now switched all of its soap production to this new palm-free base, and we are also using palm-free glycerin. Our end goal is to remove palm oil from all of our products, and we are currently investigating our surfactants which might be palm oil derived. Here at LUSH we understand that if the rainforests have any chance of surviving, retailers are going to have stop putting palm oil into their products.

As long as companies continue using palm oil, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments will allow the clearing and burning of rainforests to develop new plantations. Oil palm trees are so lucrative that governments and businesses only see dollar signs.

It seems to us that the only way to really tackle this problem is if palm oil becomes less popular. Because so many people want to use palm oil, it simply cannot be produced in a truly sustainable manner.  Lush is hoping other business will move away from palm oil, which is why we are willing to share our expertise with anyone that wants to take similar steps. We are proud of our new formula for our palm-free soap base, which is why we want to share it with other soap manufactures.

Photo credit: © Steve Leonard for BOS

What's wrong with palm?

The global demand for palm oil is causing a staggering amount of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia. Indigenous and traditional people are being forced from their forest homes, orangutans slaughtered, and the recently logged land is being planted with palm oil trees.

Palm oil plantations now cover vast swathes of land in Indonesia and Malaysia. Most of these plantations are in areas which were once covered in lush tropical rainforests. This conversion of forests to monoculture palm plantations has resulted in the loss of some of the most important ecosystems on the planet. Fires are deliberately lit to clear and prepare the land causing massive quantities of carbon to be released into the atmosphere, adding to the already serious global problem of climate change.

Photo credit: © Steve Leonard for BOS


Who is affected?


Orang Rimba

Last year members of LUSH’s buying team ventured into the rainforest of Indonesia and met a vibrant tribe of people called the Orang Rimba. They have lived in Indonesia’s Sumatran forests for hundreds of years and these forests have provided them with everything they need; a home, food and a haven from the deforestation elsewhere in Indonesia… that is, until now. Palm oil

plantations have encroached on

the land of the Orang Rimba, and entire communities are being devastated. Once proud people, the Orang Rimba are being forced off of their land, and many are now living on the side of the Trans-Sumatran highway, struggling to survive.


Orangutans are running out of time. Almost 90% of orangutan habitat has already disappeared and it is estimated that within 15 years 98% of the rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone. These wonderful animals face extinction within 10 years if current trends of habitat loss continue.

The Climate

The Guinness Book of World Records lists Indonesia as the country with the fastest rate of deforestation in the world. Because of this, Indonesia is the worlds 3rd largest CO2 emitter after the US and China. Almost all of the world’s palm oil exports come from the oil-palm plantations of Indonesia and Malaysia.


What can you do

  • Please support groups who are actively campaigning on this issue like Rainforest Action Network.  Rainforest Action Network are a savy environmental group that is the leading light in the fight against the devastating effects of palm oil. Become a member today!
  • Avoid products, like snack foods, cosmetics and detergents, that contain palm oil and write to businesses asking them seek alternatives to palm oil as we have.
  • Write to Cargill, the biggest palm oil importer into the United States and one of the biggest producers in the world, asking them to take necessary steps to ensure that their palm oil does not destroy rainforests, violate human rights or harm the climate. Please address your letter to:

    Gregory Page
    CEO, Cargill
    15407 McGinty Road
    West Wayzata, MN
    55391   USA
  • Go to www.TheProblemWithPalmOil.org to send a message to Cargill online.