For many people, candles are a part of Christmas – but how sustainable are they? Is there palm oil in the candles, for which the rainforest was cleared? Deutsche Umwelthilfe has determined which candle manufacturers and retailers focus on sustainability when it comes to palm oil. The result: 20 of the 52 companies surveyed only use palm oil from sustainably certified cultivation – that is five more than last year. A third of the manufacturers, however, do not provide any information.
The deforestation of rainforests in favor of palm oil plantations is considered to be one of the drivers of deforestation in the tropics. Therefore, the German federal government set the target that manufacturers should switch to 100 percent sustainable palm oil produced without deforestation by 2020 if possible. Such oil then comes from plantations that have been in agricultural land for a long time and for which no ecologically valuable forest areas have to be cleared. In addition, requirements for environmentally and socially compatible cultivation must be implemented.
Positive results for candles from supermarkets and drug stores
Deutsche Umwelthilfe (DUH) has now checked whether German candle manufacturers and retailers have implemented these – voluntary – requirements for the use of sustainable palm oil. The organization had already carried out such a candle check in 2020 and found that around 40 percent of the candles contained sustainable palm oil. A total of 52 companies were surveyed for the candle checks, including candle manufacturers, drug stores, hardware stores, furniture stores and decoration stores, as well as supermarkets and wholesalers.
The result: 20 of the 52 companies surveyed stated this year that the palm oil they use in candles comes exclusively from sustainably certified cultivation. That’s five more than last year. The providers include almost all supermarket chains, as well as Rossmannm and dm as well as Ikea, several candle factories as well as Gepa and raccoon. While last year hardly any company stated sustainable palm oil on the product label, the supermarket chains Norma, Lidl, Aldi Süd and Aldi Nord have been printing the RSPO label – the certification of the “Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil” initiative – on their candles since this season.
Big deficits in transparency
On the other hand, a large number of the furniture stores, wholesalers and decoration providers such as Höffner, Roller, Nanu Nana, Woolworth and Depot stood out negatively. The companies remain opaque and do not publish whether palm oil is used or whether the palm oil used comes from sustainable, deforestation-free cultivation. As in the previous year, Ikea only sells candles made from 100 percent sustainable palm oil, but does not expressly indicate this. Hardware stores also have some catching up to do with the transparency of the candle raw materials they use. Overall, a third of the 52 manufacturers and retailers surveyed are silent about whether their candles contain palm oil or whether the palm oil used is obtained from sustainably certified cultivation.
“Our candle check shows that numerous companies are voluntarily unwilling to switch to certified palm oil and to label this. We therefore demand that renewable raw materials such as vegetable oils on candles and other non-food products such as detergents and cosmetics be labeled, ”says Sascha Müller-Kraenner, Federal Managing Director of DUH. “The planned EU regulation against imported deforestation should in future also include palm oil-based substances that have been chemically processed. These so-called derivatives can be found in numerous food and non-food products such as candles, cosmetics, laundry, care and cleaning products and are currently not taken into account. “
Even the “palm oil-free” label is no guarantee of a sustainable product, as Karoline Kickler, palm oil expert at DUH, explains. “Because then petroleum-based paraffin is often used.” Paraffin – the dominant candle raw material – is, however, not very sustainable from the point of view of climate protection because it comes from petroleum processing. Replacing palm oil with European monoculture vegetable oils, fossil paraffin or soybean oil does not automatically make candles more environmentally friendly, as Kickler explains.
Source: Deutsche Umwelthilfe eV; Candle check 2021