5 Things To Know Before You E-mail Companies About Palm-Oil

Right now, we're holding a palm-oil egg hunt every day this week. The point of the game? To ease you into the habit of looking for more complex ingredients, instead of just palm-oil. Derivatives are heavily unregulated, by any entity, so this might be a more important thing to look for at the end of the day.

Let's say you did find some "eggs" at your local grocery store or mall. What do you do afterwards? Well, it's not guaranteed that these ingredients are derived from palm-oil, only a very strong possibility. So, if you want to know definitively, then you have to e-mail the company yourself. 

I encourage everyone to get into habit of this but before you do, there's five things you really need to know. Trust me, after hundreds of correspondances with companies regarding palm-oil, I might be an expert. Or at least, the only expert you know. 

1. Put all of your eggs in one basket.

I know that I've said in the past that it's okay to have follow-up e-mails, and it is, but know that follow-ups will likely tack on weeks to your eventual response. Make bullet points for every question you have and at the end, summarize the amount of answers you need in return. This sounds a little patronizing but if you don't do this, you will likely get one answer that doesn't quite cut it. And then you're back to e-mailing them, again.

2. You must ask about derivatives.

If you truly want to know if a company is palm-oil free, then you have to question all of the ingredients they use. Once, a company told me they didn't use palm-oil. True, they didn't use whole palm kernel oil. But their products were rife with unsustainable palm via derivatives and I had to follow-up several times, for many weeks, to get the truth. Mention at least three derivatives you know they use. Check out the ingredients page on their website and cross-reference that with this list. 

3. Ask them how they gauge sustainability.

This is not the same as asking someone if they are sustainable. Every company has their own way of measuring sustainability when it comes to sourcing ingredients. Many confuse RSPO membership as sustainability, which is not the case. So, asking them how they measure their own impact does get you a better answer. It will take longer to get a response but it will be worth it. 

4. Cut the fluff.

The representative handling your inquiry is touching hundreds of e-mails a day, whether they are customer or company related. Don't bother with telling them you're a longtime purchaser or you have an event soon or anything like that. These only muddle the response you may get. As someone who has answered many e-mails on behalf of companies in the past, a cut and dry e-mail is always welcome. This will get you a faster response.

5. Follow up after 7 business days.

Give them a week to respond, it is a complex issue, and then follow up in the same thread. If there isn't a thread already open, reference the time and date you previously e-mailed. In the beginning, companies would take weeks to speak to me. Sometimes a second e-mail really helps move things along.

And sometimes, it doesn't. I e-mailed Daiya many times over several months and still didn't get a response. If a company doesn't want to talk about palm-oil, they won't. I would say that after 2-3 e-mails and a month's worth of time, drop this brand completely. Don't be discouraged. There are, genuinely, plenty of other fish in the sea ▲