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#SOSsumatra: Reforesting the Indonesian rainforest one shampoo bar at a time

Palm oil. You’ve seen the headlines and you know it’s causing havoc to Indonesian rainforests and to the animals that call it home. But a scan of supermarket shelves will show you that it’s in everything from your shampoo to your candy bars. So what exactly is the problem, and how can you help solve it? 

Well contrary to the headlines, the issue isn’t actually palm oil itself. It’s a versatile oil that’s easy to grow, cheap to make, with hundreds of uses - but that’s the problem. Global demand for the oil is ever-increasing, meaning that gigantic areas of land are needed to grow it. Vast swathes of rainforest are being cleared to make way for plantations that grow solely oil palm - an agricultural technique known as a monoculture.

Industrial monoculture involves the clearing of natural land in order to produce a single crop in mass quantities. It is a major cause of deforestation in bio-diverse areas, that destroys ecosystems and further threatens endangered species. That’s where Lush comes in.

Lush has a long relationship with palm oil - read more about it here. We’re dedicated to continuously evaluating and improving the sourcing of our ingredients - and palm oil is no different.

Back in November 2017, 14,600 limited edition Orangutan soaps were produced and sold across Europe - with all proceeds going to conservation charity the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS) to fund the purchase of 50 hectares of deforested land in the Indonesian rainforest.  Now it’s Asia Pacific’s turn to make a difference.

In 2018 the story continues with SOS and Lush coming together again, this time across the Asia Pacific region, to launch phase two of the #SOSsumatra campaign. This phase of the campaign involves the launch of the SOS Sumatra shampoo bar, our first ever product using Sodium Coco Sulphate - a safe synthetic, palm-oil-free lathering agent that’s  100% derived from coconut oil.

All funds raised through the sales of the #SOSsumatra campaign will be donated to SOS in order to support their Indonesian partners, OIC, to purchase a further 50 hectares of land. This new plot of land is next to the forest restoration site secured from the European campaign and will be used as a permaculture demonstration site and conservation training hub.

What is the purpose of this regenerative and permaculture project?  

Through the two campaign products (Orangutan Soap and SOS Sumatra shampoo bar), Lush have pledged funding to buy a 100 hectare plot of land in Bukit Mas, on the edge of the Leuser Ecosystem. It will be used to set up a forest restoration and permaculture project, with Lush also pledging to buy essential oils produced through this venture for use in their products.

The profit from harvest and sales of essential oil crops will go back into conservation projects, creating a sustainable income stream for vital ongoing frontline wildlife and forest protection work.

Half of the land will be restored to forest (50 hectares – purchased with the proceeds of the Orangutan Soap), and the other half (which will be purchased with the proceeds of the SOS shampoo bar) will be a permaculture project and demonstration and training site.

The land will be used to provide training for farming communities on how to grow essential oils and other crops in a non-destructive manner; to provide income opportunities for the local community; to prevent encroachment into the national park and the protected forest, and encourage the restoration of natural habitats for the return of native wildlife.

Permaculture is a form of regenerative agriculture created by Australian naturalist Bill Mollison in the 70s and is paving the way forward as a solution to deforestation. Based around three main ethical principles - care of the earth, care of people and fair share, permaculture insists on working with, rather than against nature. It’s built around studying the patterns of ecology and mimicking these patterns to transform and regenerate productive ecosystems. By understanding how each species of plant and animal compliment each other a closed-loop, species rich food forest can be created. This regenerative tool helps us to move away from destructive monoculture farming and assists nature in supporting itself while still allowing humans to harvest crops for food and manufacturing.

The crisis occurring in Sumatra may seem like a world away, but the impacts are closer to home than you may think. Deforestation and damage to biodiversity can trigger catastrophic climate change events, affecting the whole planet. To learn more about the work of the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), visit

Photo credit: Save Our Souls installation by Ernest Zacharevic

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about 2 years ago

It's a shame prices in Singapore are so high that I resort to shopping when travelling abroad. All good causes and I like the range of products, too, but it's nearly half the price elsewhere