BOE Risks New Outrage With Fix for Animal Fat in Banknotes

  • Central bank considering using palm oil in polymer notes
  • Consultation follows anger over animal fat in new 5-pound note

After causing outrage among vegetarians by using animal fat in new U.K. banknotes, the Bank of England is now attempting to dodge environmental criticism of its possible solution.

To replace the tallow in some future polymer notes, the BOE is considering the use of palm oil -- cited by researchers as a cause of deforestation, pesticide pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions. It’s also blamed for the displacement of indigenous people and the use of forced and child labor.

Including palm oil could be embarrassing for Governor Mark Carney, who is also head of the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures. However, the BOE said in a consultation document published Thursday that it is looking at ways to mitigate the potential environmental impact.

“The bank will reflect upon the various religious, ethical and environmental considerations raised by the inclusion of animal-derived additives and palm oil as the alternative,” said the report, published alongside a 68-page analysis by consultancy firm Efeca of the production effects of tallow and its possible substitutes, palm and coconut oil.

The revelation at the end of last year that a new plastic five-pound note contained trace amounts of tallow -- a farming by-product made from rendered animal fat -- prompted more than 130,000 people to sign a petition to end its use. While the BOE said last month that it would not pull the banknotes from circulation and will issue a new 10-pound bill as planned in September, the central bank has opened a consultation on alternative materials.

So far it has found that due to supply chains and cost issues, palm oil provides the “only practical alternative” and that the environmental impact “can be potentially mitigated by the bank’s suppliers acquiring additives that meet an associated certification standard for environmentally sustainable production.”

The BOE is seeking responses to its consultation by May 12.

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