Iceland had planned to use an animated Rang-tan advert, originally created and used by Greenpeace earlier this year, as part of its Christmas communications. The advert, which depicts the destruction of “Rang-tan’s” forest due to deforestation driven by palm oil plantations, has been blocked from airing on television.

Clearcast is the body responsible for clearing ads on behalf of the four major UK commercial broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4, Sky and Turner. The organisation assesses all ads against the Broadcast Code of Advertising Practice (BCAP) but is not a regulator and does not ban ads.

A Clearcast spokesperson explained to edie that the Rang-tan advert has not yet been able to comply with the BCAP code, citing “political rules”.

Since news surfaced of the ban, more than 830,000 people have signed a petition on calling for the decision to be overturned.

The Communications Act 2003 prohibits political advertising. According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), political matters can refer to “an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature” and “bringing about changes of the law in the whole or a part of the United Kingdom or elsewhere, or otherwise influencing the legislative process in any country or territory”, amongst other factors.

In 2006, campaigning group Animal Defenders International (ADI) took the UK Government to High Court to challenge a ban on political advertising in broadcast media. Like Greenpeace, ADI was considered a “political group” and had an advert focused on the treatment of primates in captivity banned for broadcast. In 2013, the European Court of Human Rights found in favour of the UK Government and upheld the ban.

Palm oil problems

Iceland has pledged to remove palm oil from all of its own-brand food products by the end of 2018 and, in something that is entirely unusual for a retailer at Christmas, wanted to use the festive period to spread the message.

Palm oil appears in more than 50% of all supermarket products, but the commodity is linked to environmental destruction in global supply chains. Expanding palm oil and wood pulp plantations are the biggest drivers of deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, where many species, including the orangutan, are being threatened with extinction.

The widespread support for the video has not been unanimous. Marketing and communications firm Proctor + Stevenson’s sustainability expert Ollie James argued that efforts should be placed on sourcing sustainable palm oil, rather than phasing it out altogether.

“If we ban or boycott palm oil, other, more land-hungry oils will likely take its place,” James said. “Palm oil is here to stay and we urgently need concerted action to make palm oil production more sustainable, ensuring that governments, producers and the supply chain honour their sustainability commitments.

“I would like to see a world where palm oil is 100% sustainably produced. To get the message across, labelling is crucial so that consumers can go into a shop and make that positive choice. It is important to educate people about the importance of choosing sustainable palm oil. Boycotting it entirely shouldn’t be the knee-jerk reaction here because it’s simply not the answer. Ads like the one promoted by Greenpeace and Iceland are really not helpful.”

Greenpeace claims that 25 orangutans are lost every day – largely due to their habitat being cleared for palm oil. edie reached out to Greenpeace for comment, but at the time of publication was yet to receive a response.

Iceland’s plans for an “orangutan friendly” Christmas has been disrupted by the ban, with the retailer claiming that more than £500,000 of media spend would have been committed to ensuring the advert was seen by consumers to raise awareness about the destructive impacts of palm oil.

Matt Mace

Comments (1)

  1. Richard Phillips says:

    About half of the palm oil produced is used to produce bio-diesel, to make our cars "greener"!

    Sustainability is a very difficult subject, one has got to chase the subject back so far that the process gets lost.

    I can see no point in biofuels, the chemical processing itself consumes energy. The feed back time through photosynthesis is a long one.

    Wood burning in power stations is another one. For Drax we import 7 million tons of wood from the USA. Half this weight is chemically combined water. Upon combustion it is released producing no heat, it is boiled off and blown up the chimney, taking about 6% of the heat from the furnace with it. Domestic boilers have to recover this heat, by law. But only scientists and engineers can understand this crazy game. In the end it is all for money, not saving the planet.

    Richard Phillips

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