Peanut butter is probably the only food that I eat everyday of my life and I am always on the hunt for the most sustainable and ethical nut butter. A regular go-to for me is the Whole Earth CRUNCHY peanut butter, based on its superior healthiness and deliciousness! Whole Earth is a brand which overtly prides itself on being delicious, nutritious, and sustainable, which is reflected perfectly in their rustica-coloured tree-adorned label. Indeed, the brand name itself denotes high sustainable expectations. Now, the company is clearly strongly committed to sustainable palm oil use, supporting the rights and livelihoods of farming communities and fighting against deforestation. It has an impressive array of certifications from the Rainforest Alliance, Soil Association, SOS, and RSPO. However, on other important factors such as carbon footprint, sustainability commitments, and operational labourers there is next to no available information. It is without transparency on these key environmental and social aspects that I can only give this product a planet rating of 1.3.
In summary, I believe that the ‘Whole Earth approach to life’ which includes ‘looking at the bigger picture, being open-minded, and having a can-do collaborative attitude towards making change’ is a genuine one to an extent. While they are very transparent about their use of palm oil, even inviting consumers to attend their regular partner forums on palm oil to answer any concerns they may have, the information on other topics is sparse (employment, emissions, energy use). There is also no mention anywhere of a sustainability report or audit process or net zero pledge, which seems inconsistent for a company so overtly committed to specific environmental and social issues. So while it is clear that Whole Earth has made great progress on some elements, more transparency and attention needs to be given over to other aspects of production.
The ‘award winning’ peanut butter is a healthy source of plant protein (1 tbsp of butter contains the same amount of protein as 1 egg), mono-unsaturated fats and dietary fibre with no added sugar. Leaving the skins on the peanuts enriches the butter with vitamins and minerals including zinc, magnesium, folate, and potassium, which are essential for maintaining a good metabolism and a healthy immune system. The company is committed to making food that is both delicious and nutritious!
From an ecological perspective, the Whole Earth website contains links to a bunch of climate positive information sources exulting the importance of recycling, cutting down on meat consumption and net zero. However, concrete information about the actual environmental standards of the peanut butter production are non-existent.
Only ‘sustainable peanuts’ are used in the Whole Earth butters, as certified by the Soil Association which means that the growing and farming the peanuts has to adhere to a very lengthy list of environmental and ethical standards. The actual peanuts are all sourced from the Far East or South America, which will incur transport emissions. Whole Earth also gained BCorp certification in 2018 as a recognition of its incredibly high standards in social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. BCorp certification is achieved through a rigorous impact assessment process, which if passed means that a company’s activity ‘balances purpose and profit’, exerting a positive influence on workers, community, customers and the environment.
The non-organic butters contain a teaspoon of sustainable palm oil to keep the butters ‘creamy and seriously spreadable’ to prevent consumers from having to stir the jar before use. They ask us to ‘know palm oil’ and state that using sustainably sourced palm oil has a far more positive impact on the natural environment and the communities which produce it than just boycotting the ingredient. In fact, palm oil is the world’s most efficient veg oil, with 1 palm tree making 40kg of oil every year. To support this vision, Whole Earth is a member of SOS (Sumatran Orangutan Society) which supports the industry for sustainable deforestation-free certified palm oil. The palm oil used by Whole Earth is also Rainforest Alliance Certified and certified by the RSPO (roundtable on sustainable palm oil). To clarify this, sustainable palm-oil certified companies must have been found to comply with a set of environmental and social criteria for the extraction and use of palm oil throughout the entire supply chain. This helps minimise the negative impact of palm oil production.
However, if you are still dubious about how sustainable this palm oil really is, then the organic Whole Earth peanut butters do NOT contain any palm oil, so you can opt for this instead.
The process is apparently very simple (peanuts are shelled, then roasted, then crushed), however, no information is given on the energy or emissions intensity of this process. Similarly, no information is given on how the peanuts are farmed or transported, which is admittedly a very significant omission.
Whole Earth peanut butter can come in a large 1 kg plastic tub which can be recycled or re-purposed after being well-cleaned. However, the more commonly bought product comes in a 454g glass jar which is 100% recyclable. The metal lids can be recycled if you live in an area which performs steel-based recycling.
As mentioned above, Whole Earth is a member of several organisations which promote the use of sustainable palm oil and prioritise the wellbeing of the farmers and communities involved in the production of this oil. These high standards ensure that the rights of all workers are respected and equal opportunities are provided to all workers. The Whole Earth website claims that sustainable palm oil supports the ‘livelihoods of 50 million Indonesians’, lifting them out of poverty and providing them with access to proper schools and healthcare. The palm oil is sourced from Daabon - the first ever certified organic palm oil producers.
It is important to note that the farmers of the peanuts themselves is unspecified, and there is no information available about actually working for the company itself, which does lower this rating.
While there is some lack of clarity, Whole Earth does appear to promote a belief in progressive and inclusive workers’ rights. As well as being a BCorp company it is also a member of the International Tree Foundation which promotes and funds sustainable community-led forestry and education projects in both Africa and the UK.