GoodLight – Driving change with independent smallholder credits

In 2005 the two friends David and Jon had the idea to develop an affordable, clean-burning candle that could replace the paraffin votives on New York’s restaurant tables and beyond. The key would be to make it affordable and competitive with paraffin-based candles. However, the friends became discouraged when they realized that one of the few cost-competitive alternatives to paraffin, palm wax, came with the negative connotation of deforestation and biodiversity loss. The business idea was put on ice until 2008, when David learned about the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as a sustainability movement to transform the palm oil sector. David and Jon revived their idea and developed a business plan in which responsibly sourced  palm oil was key. Two years later, in 2010,  GoodLight Natural Candles was launched.

Participating in RSPO through the Book&Claim system

GoodLight has been a member of the RSPO from day one of its business’ existence. The company uses palm wax – a product made from different palm oil derivatives. Derivatives are produced using fractions and with various processes involved, which makes it often difficult to trace their origin. As such, buying sustainable palm oil derivatives is still difficult for small companies as their leverage on the market is small. An alternative for GoodLight to engage in the sustainable palm oil market was through the Book&Claim (B&C) system. For the first eight years they bought their B&C credits from a global palm oil player, before they switched to buying independent smallholder credits in 2018.

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Buying smallholder credits to make a difference

When they learned that a large part of the global palm oil is produced by smallholders, GoodLight decided to switch to buying B&C credits from the Wild Asia Group Scheme (WAGS). WAGS is an initiative that supports smallholders to enhance their productivity through best practices and to meet the RSPO certification requirements. Initiatives like these enable smallholders to participate in the trade of sustainable palm oil despite their lack of access to physical sustainable supply chains. 

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With their move to WAGS, GoodLight demonstrated that even as a small derivatives-sourcing company it is possible to advance sustainability in the palm oil sector through the purchase of B&C credits:

We buy such small quantities of palm oil derivatives that big players wouldn’t even respond to our emails. Without the B&C system we wouldn’t be able to participate in the sustainable palm oil market. The same goes for the smallholders. The only way these farmers get incentivised to produce sustainably is through companies like us who buy their certificates.’, co-founder David Callicott says.

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Creating a platform to educate people

Since learning about the sustainability movement in the palm oil sector, David and Jon decided to use the company not only to sell clean-burning candles but also to raise awareness among customers:

We decided that this company would not just be about the product, but that it would be a platform to educate people about what palm oil is, the destruction of the conventional palm oil industry and that there is a chance to change things by creating a demand for sustainable palm oil.’, David (right photo) says.

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Ever since the beginning every candle box comes with a short message about the company’s commitment to sustainable palm oil. This message triggers dialogue. The company is regularly contacted by concerned customers about their use of sustainable palm oil:

‘We welcome it, it’s a legitimate concern. It’s an important issue, else it wouldn’t be such a big thing for us. We are glad that customers notice that and read the package and want to learn more.’

Commitment of GoodLight

Follow in GoodLight’s footsteps!

David doesn’t see his company as a frontrunner. ‘We just do what should be done.’ And by this we hope he can inspire many more companies to follow in their footsteps.

What can you do to start your journey as a company to source sustainable palm oil?

‘Do what I did: Educate yourself. Talk to the RSPO, they have a lot of support staff. And get in touch with some of the environmental NGOs that you really respect to get their perspective as well. The more information you have, the better you can figure out how to implement it within your own company!’ , David explains.

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