Over two weeks after World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) launched their campaign to switch to using palm oil that does not cause deforestation and haze, 11 companies have remained unresponsive.
Two of these companies, Old Chang Kee (Ten & Han) and Polar Puffs & Cakes, are now the subject of a new, independent campaign led by a group of ten youths. Through initiating a petition on Change.org and organising school talks, social media and outreach to customers outside the outlets, these youths hope that consumers could lend their support to convince the companies to change.
The group, Students of Singapore Against Haze (SOS), was founded by Gauri Shukla, who saw first hand the destruction caused by unsustainable agricultural practices on a trip to Bukit Lawang, Indonesia.
“I used to visit that place nearly every year to trek and raft. But when I visited in 2016, I hated what I saw. Lush green forests had given way to oil palm plantations and stacks of logs. The whole place was shrouded in thick smoke,” Gauri recounted.
The experience drove Gauri to understand how her consumption was linked to deforestation and the haze.
Gauri said, “I learnt how vast rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia were being cleared for agriculture, mainly oil palm. Yet, some farmers are already growing oil palm without using fire, while protecting the forests, peatland and indigenous people. The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certifies palm oil produced in such a sustainable way.”
One day, after eating an Old Chang Kee curry puff, she started thinking about what type of oil the curry puff had been fried with. She eventually found it on the cooking oil tin, where the ingredients included palm oil, but no RSPO certification. She decided to contact another popular curry puff brand, Polar Puffs & Cakes, and found out that they too use uncertified palm oil.
Gauri shared, “We have a list of suppliers in Singapore that can supply cooking oil with the RSPO label. In fact, there are many companies such as Sodexo, IKEA and Singapore Zoo who are sourcing RSPO certified cooking oil. Because I so strongly believe that Old Chang Kee and Polar Puffs would care if they had known, I tried my very best to reach out to them through various means. Multiple emails, calls and even a visit to Old Chang Kee’s headquarters were ignored. A staff from Polar Puffs told me there’s no point talking if I can’t meet their price.”
Her team obtained information from a supplier that RSPO-certified palm oil costs about 5 – 10% more than conventional palm oil. They calculated that it translates to about $2 a tin, or less than 1 cent per puff.
“We recognise that businesses have an obligation to their shareholders to maximise profits. It is up to us as consumers to show how much we care. That’s why we started this petition. I just hope we can enjoy a curry puff without sacrificing the rainforests and our clean air.”
You can find out more about SOS’s campaign at: https://www.change.org/p/tell-old-chang-kee-polar-puffs-to-stop-frying-our-rainforests