POLL: Should Iceland’s Christmas ad about palm oil have been banned?

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Major retailers enter a battle every Christmas to make us cry with their saccharine seasonal ads – but this year we already have a clear winner.

Concern about our planet has never been greater, thanks to last month’s UN report warning that we have 12 years to stop irreversible damage to the Earth. Yet, one month on, a supermarket’s Christmas advert showing the damage is doing to the natural world has been deemed too political to put on TV. If that doesn’t make you weep, I’m not sure what will.

Iceland repackaged a short film by Greenpeace showing the destruction of an ’s rainforest habitat due to palm oil growers. Palm oil is about as unsustainable as it gets, and contributes to and the endangerment of species, including elephants, rhinos, tigers and orangutans.

In a move that has been widely criticised, Clearcast, which approves ads on behalf of broadcasters including Sky, Channel 4 and ITV, says it couldn’t clear the Iceland ad against the rules of the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice. The Advertising Standards Authority, which has the authority to rule on Clearcast’s decisions, says it has had “no role” in this case.

But rather than protecting the public from insidious political messages, Clearcast has prevented a crucial message being broadcast to millions of viewers, many of whom buy products containing palm oil without knowing the devastation it’s causing to animals and . Protecting and restoring forests would achieve 18% of the emissions mitigation needed by 2030 to avoid irreversible , a group of 40 scientists said last month.

While is “just as urgent” as eliminating the use of fossil fuels, the scientists warned that the importance of forests risks being overlooked by the world’s governments. And there is evidence suggesting this isn’t likely to change in the near future.

This year, Greenpeace’s Unearthed revealed correspondence between the Ministry of Defence, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and the British high commission warning that supporting an EU ban on the imports of palm oil in biofuels could put at risk defence deals with – one of the world’s biggest producers of palm oil – to replace its fleet of fighter jets with British-built Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft.

While fundamental change needs to happen at a political level, businesses also play a massive role in enacting structural and social change, and Iceland is leading the way by putting its money where its mouth is. It will be the UK’s first major supermarket to stop using palm oil as an ingredient in all its own-label products by the end of 2018.

That’s no easy feat, since palm oil is found in thousands of supermarket products, from biscuits to cosmetics to cleaning products, and is integral to the global supply chain. Latest Greenpeace research found that 25 palm oil groups had cleared more than 130,000 hectares of rainforest in the last three years, while companies including Nestlé, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Mondelez, Mars and Kellogg’s buy palm oil from companies deemed destructive by Greenpeace.

In the fight against palm oil, money has been the clear winner so far. This is exactly why arguments against the human destruction of the planet shouldn’t be silenced, and why Iceland’s animated film of a friendly orangutan shouldn’t be banned for being too political. What’s really political in this scenario is the banning of a video containing facts that are in the interest of viewers, and apparently against the interests of some politicians.

Iceland has uploaded the video to YouTube instead, but the damage is already done. Clearcast’s response sends out the message that businesses can’t shout about the good things they’re doing to be more sustainable.

Iceland’s managing director, Richard Walker, says its Christmas ad was the retailer’s “first chance to prove we can put commercial interests to the side in order to make the changes required to save our planet in the aftermath of the landmark UN report”. But, he says, it failed.

Businesses aren’t the most obvious winners in a battle for environmental consciousness, but, in this case, Iceland is setting a shining example of how a retailer can attempt to help the planet, and shows that commercial interests and climate change don’t have to be in conflict. There are massive failures here – but not from Iceland.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 09 Nov 2018.

We invite you to share your opinion whether Iceland’s Christmas ad about palm oil should have been banned? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should Iceland's Christmas ad about palm oil have been banned?

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Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop wildlife crime. By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


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Ama Menec
Ama Menec

This is totally awesome. It has me in bits, but it is also brilliant. If I weren’t overloaded with the badger cull I would be campaigning 24/7 against palm oil. There is no such thing as ‘sustainable’ palm oil, it only grows in tropical regions and so rain forest is cleared to grow it. It really is that simple. I’m astonished this advert has been banned, it shows just how corrupt a nation and time we are living in.

M Leybra
M Leybra

You’re kidding, laurels to Iceland who slaughter’s whales like they’re going on out of style, Fin for export & Minke for their own consumptive use. It’s always been a case of commercial interests rule commercial media & this was an easy out…. with The Advertising Standards Authority, & Clearcast simply passing the buck. Now, back to the real world w/ business as usual because the end is coming. Un report or no UN report, it’s coming.

Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker

Are you really that dense? Iceland is a supermarket chain in the UK, not the island nation that has one deranged billionaire who kills whales for fun.

Cameron McElroy

Oh dear no!


I’m just recently hearing that this is even a problem. “They” have done a pretty good job hiding it.


It beggars belief that anyone should vote “yes” to banning this advert. It beggars belief that it should have been banned in the first place. If we are going to start banning adverts that make the viewer aware of products that are causing damage to the planet – let’s start with fossil fuels – i.e. petrol/diesel and cars – there are more car adverts on the TV than possibly all other types of adverts put together. What about holidays abroad – let’s ban those adverts too – you have to fly – more pollution. Cruises – more pollution. The general… Read more »

Rhodna McMullins


Nancy Peak Schweiker


Sofie L. Forsberg


Karen Lyons Kalmenson

If the planet and it’s inhabitants are decimated by callousness and greed, the so called political nature of things will die, too.