Azman harvests oil palm fruit near Pasoh Forest Reserve.

Sustainable Palm Oil

Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world. You’ve probably used it a dozen times today without even realizing it.

© Benjamin Drummond

It’s found in half the ​products on supermarket shelves. It’s in your sandwich, chips and cookies. You used it to brush your teeth. You even fed it to your dog​.

It’s extremely versatile and incredibly efficient – oil palm trees produce up to 10 times more oil per hectare than any other crop. I​t’s no surprise that global demand for palm oil has more than doubled in the last 10 years. But while this exceptional growth has provided work for millions of producers, it has also posed unprecedented threats to local people and wildlife, especially in Indonesia and Malaysia, where 85% of the world’s oil palm is grown. Deforestation, draining and planting oil palm on peat lands, and land disputes with rural communities have all been major consequences of the global palm oil boom.​

Our plan

Conservation International recognizes that palm oil itself is not the enemy and that it can be produced sustainably. Yet despite progress, the negative impacts associated with palm oil persist. That’s why we are working urgently to address these issues and to promote solutions that benefit people and nature.

Transforming supply

Conservation International works across the oil palm value chain to create benefits for nature and people, incorporating sustainable palm oil production as part of an integrated landscape approach. Our efforts include:

  • Helping growers improve productivity while conserving critical forest areas
  • Supporting smallholders with resources to boost yields and improve livelihoods
  • Working with companies and communities to develop new production models
  • Participation in multi-stakeholder initiatives like the High Carbon Stock Approach to promote collaboration, develop industry tools and resources, and support the implementation of no-deforestation palm oil production

 

Promoting demand

Conservation International urges consumer goods companies and retailers to use 100% certified sustainable palm oil that meets or exceeds the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and that they increase the amount of palm oil from physically certified sources while supporting leadership standards like RSPO Next.

Engaging consumers

Conservation International urges consumers like you join us. Tell the companies whose products you buy to commit to more sustainable palm oil sourcing. Let them know it’s important to you.

Strengthening policy

We ask governments to ensure that their policy and financial incentives support more sustainable palm oil production and do not directly or indirectly contribute to deforestation or social conflict. We provide scientific advice to inform natural resource planning and decision-making.

 

Oil palm plantations in northeastern Borneo, state of Sabah, Malaysia.
© Vaara

By the numbers

62 million metric tons of palm oil

More than 62 million metric tons of palm oil are produced globally on 20 million hectares of land, with projected growth of 5 percent per year until 2020.

 
Orangutan baby
© Will Turner

The consequences of unsustainable production

The exponential growth of palm oil poses unprecedented threats to forests, wildlife and people in the areas where it is grown and harvested. Across southeast Asia, and increasingly in Africa and Latin America, tropical forests are being converted to oil palm plantations. And peatlands — wetlands with carbon-rich soils — are being drained for cultivation. This results in the significant emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, as well as threatening the last remaining habitats for endangered species like the orangutan and Sumatran tiger. And the basic rights of people and communities are increasingly at risk due to land disputes between palm producers and indigenous communities.

Palm oil fruit
© Benjamin Drummond

The invisible ingredient

If palm oil is found in half of all products on supermarket shelves, how is it considered an invisible ingredient? Palm oil is often listed using many different ingredient names you probably don’t recognize when you look at product labels. These could include: Palm oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palm stearin, Palmolein, Palmitate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and many others. It can even be listed simply as “Vegetable oil.” If your favorite product contains palm oil, contact the manufacturer and ask them to use certified sustainable palm oil. If the manufacturer already uses sustainable palm oil, ask them to add the logo to product packaging. Adding a sustainable logo helps consumers make the best choice to protect the environment.

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Contact

John Buchanan

Vice President, Sustainable Production
jbuchanan@conservation.org
703.341.2539

Melissa Thomas

Director, Sustainable Palm Oil in Africa
mthomas@conservation.org
703.341.2631

Katie Thomason

Coordinator, Sustainable Palm Oil Markets
kthomason@conservation.org
703.341.2485