Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Few Words on Why You Should Care About Sustainable Palm Oil


Several years ago, during extended travels in Malaysia, I made an unforgettable stop at Sepilok Orangutan sanctuary. As we drove through fields of palm tree farms, my guide explained to me the negative effects of Palm oil harvesting. 

The biggest impression on me came when he explained workers often cut trees down to make room for planting more palm trees. Rarely do they look up. Too many times a mother orangutan is in the tree. When the tree falls, she makes sure to fall on her back to protect the infant in her arms. Most times, the mother does not survive the fall and the infant does.  If the baby orangutan is lucky, it is not killed (the body buried and hidden) or smuggled elsewhere to be sold on the black market. The more fortunate of them are taken to Sepilok to be raised and released into their sanctuary.


This is only one of the evils of unsustainable palm oil production affecting humans and animals. Other devastating consequences can be large-scale forest conversion, loss of critical habitat for endangered species, including rhinos, elephants and tigers, soil erosion, soil and water pollution, eviction of forest-dwelling people and social conflict in communities. 

The production of ‘bad’ palm oil is rapidly destroying virgin rainforests and ecosystems and causing air pollution to rise and putting many species at risk of extinction. If grown sustainably, ‘good’ palm oil can benefit local communities with fair working conditions and help protect valuable species and forests. 

Since 2004, the RSPO or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil  is trying to change this.
RSPO is a not-for-profit organization that has developed a set of environmental and social criteria, which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

Palm oil is not just in food, many products contain palm oil. It is a common ingredient in many everyday items such as margarine, biscuits, bread, cereals, noodles, shampoos, lipsticks, candles, detergents, chocolates and ice creams, to name but a few (in fact, as much as half of all supermarket items contain it.) 

It is commercially grown in several tropical countries but mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 85% of global palm oil production. Worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double again by 2050 to 240 million tons. 


Palm oil is the most efficient oilseed crop in the world. Sustainable palm oil is an incredibly high-yielding vegetable oil, other vegetable oils (such as rapeseed and sunflower oil) replacing it will require more land to yield the same amount of oil. 

One hectare (roughly two and a half acres) of oil palm plantation is able to produce up to ten times more oil than other leading oilseed crops. This makes palm oil the highest yielding and least expensive vegetable oil in the world. 

In most palm-oil producing countries including Indonesia and Malaysia but also Nigeria, Thailand, Colombia, Ecuador, Papua New Guinea, Ivory Coast, Brazil and others, palm oil trade has contributed significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction. In Indonesia and Malaysia together, approximately 4.5 million people earn a living from palm oil.


The palm oil debate is a complex one and it can be confusing as to what action can and should be taken. The RSPO aims to facilitate the dialogue, to raise awareness on the issue of palm oil and to help consumers and all stakeholders make more informed decisions.

When properly applied, criteria developed by the RSPO can help minimise the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions. 

The RSPO has more than 2,600 members worldwide who represent all links along the palm oil supply chain. Each commits to produce, source or use sustainable palm oil, certified by the RSPO.


#1 Check it!

Know what products contain palm oil and when buying these products, check for this seal on the label. 

#2 Share this post! #GoodBadPalmOil

Spread the word! Share this page on social media. Use the hashtag #GoodBadPalmOil

DISCLOSURE: This blog post is sponsored by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and is the first time I have ever put a sponsored post on this blog. My personal experience shaped my desire to share the information in this post and although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. 

#3 Follow Along on Social Media

INSTAGRAM: @goodbadpalmoil

1 comment:

  1. FANTASTIC post. Great to see some insight from someone who has first hand knowledge of the situation!


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