Clearcast's ban on UK retailer Iceland Foods' palm oil TV ad, explained

For part of an ad campaign during the holiday season, Iceland Foods struck a deal with Greenpeace to reuse an old animated short film highlighting an animated orangutan’s home and how the palm oil industry negatively impacts its habitat. However Clearcast, the non-governmental organization that governs and pre-approves advertising in the UK, banned the ad from being shown because it apparently is “directed towards a political end” — signaling a violation of the Communications Act of 2003.

Earlier in the year, Iceland was the first big UK supermarket to make a pledge to remove all palm oil used for its in-house brands by the end of 2018.

Palm oil causes major disruption to the habitats of numerous animals throughout the world, including the only remaining homes of the orangutan in Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85 percent of the world’s palm oil is produced. In Sumatra, national parks are being illegally torn down to produce the oil where now less than 3,000 Sumatran elephants live — the same is happening to the Bornean Pygmy elephant and Sumatran tiger, all of which are listed as either endangered or critically endangered.

Exports of palm oil in Indonesia, in millions of tonnes

Containing naturally high levels of vegetable fats, palm oil is red in colour but is often refined into a white or semi-opaque colour before being most commonly used to make vegetable oil, explains Rainforest Rescue. The oil, extracted from the seeds of the flowers on the trees, is constantly in high demand because it is a productive crop, producing high yields and at a low cost.

“This was a film that Greenpeace made with a voice over by Emma Thompson,” said Iceland founder Malcolm Walker. The company received permission to remove the Greenpeace logo and use it in place of a more traditional holiday ad.

“Clearcast and the broadcasters have to date been unable to clear this Iceland ad because we concerned that it doesn’t comply with the political rules of the BCAP code,” a spokesperson for Clearcast explained. Specifically, they raised an issue with Greenpeace because they “have not yet been able to demonstrate compliance in this area.”

The company will still be placing TV ads but will instead use 10-second clips, highlighting its palm-oil free products. Though the company said they wanted to use the film as their signature ad campaign, they will not be disputing the decision.

As the World Wildlife Foundation explains, palm oil can be found in numerous food and household products, being the most-used vegetable oil on the planet. Palm trees grow in rainforests and are the expanding rapidly because of uncontrolled clearing of land to set up plantations, leading to loss of habitat for numerous endangered species. The oil can be found in pizza dough, instant noodles, ice cream, margarine, chocolate, cookies, bread, lipstick, shampoo, detergent and even biodiesel.

Much of the time it can be unclear what products actually contain palm oil or a byproduct of it because it may be listed under numerous names, including vegetable oil, palm kernel oil, palm fruit oil, vegetable fat, palm kernel, palmate or palmitate, glyceryl, stearate, stearic acid, palmitoyl, oxostearamide, among numerous other names.

📸: Wikimedia 📈: Palm Oil Analytics