Banned Iceland Christmas advert: What is palm oil, why was the ad banned from TV and how to sign the petition

Laura Hampson, Tom Herbert

Iceland's Christmas advert has gone viral after it was banned from TV for being "too political."

People all over social media, including TV presenter James Corden, have been praising the supermarket giant for its Christmas campaign highlighting the environmental destruction caused by producing palm oil.

Iceland is a committed enivronmental campaigner, and earlier this year announced they would be banning palm oil from their own brand products by the end of 2018.

Their reason behind the decision to campaign for an "orangutan friendly Christmas" is because of palm oil's ‘harmful environmental impact.' The production of it has devastating impacts on wildlife and tropical forests.

Forest being cleared for palm oil plantations (AFP/Getty Images)

What was Iceland’s Christmas advert?

Unlike most other retailers, Iceland planned to use their Christmas advert this year to raise awareness with its short film Rang-tan.

Rang-tan is an animation telling the story of rainforest destruction caused by palm oil production and its devastating impact on the critically endangered orangutan.

It was hoped that the advert would improve shoppers’ understanding of the widespread rainforest destruction for palm oil production, which appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products.

The advert would have seen Iceland committing over half a million pounds of media spend to ensure that it was seen by millions of consumers – a bold move away from the usual commercial, product-led advertising in order to highlight an important issue causing climate change and biodiversity loss.

It ends with: "Dedicated to the 25 orangutans we lose every day."

Richard Walker, managing director at Iceland, said: "The culmination of our palm oil project is offering our customers the choice of an orangutan friendly Christmas, and we wanted to reflect this in our advertising.

“Our commitment to help protect the home of orangutans remains extremely close to our hearts. We are proud to be encouraging consumers to make more sustainable choices, even without the support of TV advertising, ahead of the Christmas shopping season.”

Why was Iceland’s palm oil advert banned?

By law, political advertising isn't allowed on TV.

Iceland initially said the advert "may have proven a brave step too far as the advert was banned by advertising regulators", suggesting it was because of the message.

But Watchdog Clearcast says it wasn't approved because the advert was originally the brainchild of environmental organisation Greenpeace.

For the ad to be approved, Greenpeace needed to prove it wasn't a "political advertiser" - which Clearcast says it wasn't able to do.

Chris Mundy, managing director of Clearcast, said: "The case made by many of the people who have contacted us is that they feel it is wrong that the ad is considered to be political and that it makes important environmental points. However, for the reasons above, that is not the issue here."

How have people reacted to the advert?

Iceland decided to launch its campaign on social media instead, which has been hugely successful, with over 13 million views on its Facebook page alone.

However, Clearcast's banning of the ad has been called an "injustice" and sparked outrage.

An online petition has been set up to "release Iceland's banned Christmas advert on TV".

It states: "The ad holds an important message - one that is emotional, touching and helps to spread a message about saving the environment and so must be broadcasted."

How to sign the petition to overturn the ban

The online petition on change.org has already received over 850,000 signatures. You can sign it here.

What is palm oil?

A type of vegetable oil that is made from the fruit of oil palm trees.

It is the most commonly used vegetable oil with around 66 million tonnes produced each year – and it’s found in around half of all supermarket products.

Is palm oil bad for the environment?

Over the past century, the demand for palm oil has risen dramatically which means large areas of tropical forest in south-east Asia and Africa have been destroyed as a result

Oil palm fruit (Pixabay)

Between 1990 and 2008 palm oil production was responsible for 8 per cent of the world’s deforestation as forests are burnt to clear areas for people to grow oil palms – which, in some cases, is illegal.

Burning these forests means destroying the habitats for wildlife and plants in the area, with elephants, orangutans, tigers and rhinos among the animals affected.

In fact, around 100,000 orangutans were lost between 1999 and 2015 due to palm oil production, other animals are being pushed to extinction and indigenous people are losing their homes.

Furthermore, destruction of rainforests contributes to rising greenhouse gas emissions which contributes to climate change.

What products contain palm oil?

Many everyday products contain palm oil including lipstick, shampoo, detergent, chocolate, biscuits, soap, ice cream and pizza dough – so it's difficult to avoid it completely.

The solution? Try to choose palm oil free products where you can to cut down your consumption. The lower the demand for palm oil based products, the more likely brands will be to change their policies.

More efforts need to be made to monitor palm oil and make sure it's produced sustainably, without harming animals and forests during the process.

Why do companies use palm oil?

Dr Emma Keller from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told BBC Newsround: "Palm oil is a super-efficient crop, meaning that we can produce a lot more palm oil per area of land compared to other oil crops like soybean oil or coconut oil."

Palm oil production has also provided jobs for “millions of small farmers”, helping them to get out of poverty.