Palm Oil Resources

Sumatran tiger © ZSL

Think palm oil awareness!


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Encourage your visitors to think about what they buy and it will help the Sumatran tiger.

Palm oil is now found in half of all packaged foods and appears in soaps and household cleaners, cosmetics and is used as fuel for cars and power plants.

Use these resources to educate your visitors about palm oil and the effects of deforestation on biodiversity. It’s not only Sumatran tigers that are under threat from plantations grown without regard to the ecosystems, it is orang-utan, Asiatic elephants, Sumatran rhino and more.

In addition, West Africa is a new frontier region for large-scale palm oil production with potential threat to gorilla, African elephant and chimpanzees to name but some of the more charismatic species.

Fruit of the oil palm tree © MPOC/RSPO

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  • Palm oil come from the oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) which originates from west and southwest Africa
  • 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced by Indonesia and Malaysia.
  • Indonesia is the world’s largest producer of palm oil and the second largest producer of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO); 41% of annual production capacity of CSPO comes from Indonesia.
  • Approximately 9% of Indonesia’s palm oil output is certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
  • 49% of annual production capacity of certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) comes from Malaysia – the largest producer of CSPO in the world.


Palm oil is here to stay.

  • It is the highest-yielding vegetable oil crop, which makes it very efficient.
  • It needs less than half the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. (This makes palm oil the least expensive vegetable oil in the world)
  • It has great properties for foods; it doesn’t smell, cooks easily, has a smooth texture and is a natural preservative.


Sustainable palm oil

Sustainable palm oil is certified. The most well known certifier is the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil, (RSPO) but it is not the only one.

Sustainable producers working in High Conservation Value landscapes must protect species and habitats.

Potential mitigation measures are:

  • Buffer zones and wildlife corridors
  • Protection from poaching
  • Access to ground cover, food & water

Sustainable production is a starting point but certification does not go far enough.  Standards required for certification still need to be strengthened.


Product labelling

Under the new European Union legislation,  vegetable oil used in food products must be explicitly named on the label.  Manufacturers will no longer be able to hide palm oil in their ingredients under the generic term ‘vegetable oil’. However, this only applies to packaged foods.

This law came into effect on 13 December 2014.

Problem: This will not identify which are sustainable sourced products.

Promote alternative oil sources?

The implications of palm oil production are complex.

Manufacturers can consider sustainable alternatives to palm oil to halt rapid deforestation, but as palm  oil high yields need less land, will using an alternative oil just increase land use?

The use of palm oil as a bio-fuel will put even more pressure on land that could be needed for food production.

Deforestation and palm oil production have serious implications for global climate change.

“The United Kingdom is working towards achieving 100% sourcing of credibly certified sustainable palm oil by the end of 2015”

Demand for Palm Oil

The greatest demand for palm oil is from China, India and Indonesia with the EU fourth.

EU countries have an opportunity to lead the way in demanding sustainable products. Labelling of palm oil on food packaging in the EU may turn consumers off palm oil if consumers are not given the correct message.

“Once palm oil is identified in products, consumers should use that knowledge to demand manufactuers switch to sustainable sources”



Links and resources

UK Government’s statement on Palm oil

Sustainable Palm Oil Platform – Comprehensive library of tools and resources to inform best practice and sustainability in the palm oil sector stakeholders. Includes case studies from zoo campaigns.

Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)  – Formed to promote sustainable palm oil

Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit – See palm oil companies activities on this interactive website

Fact Sheets

Ethical Consumer Palm Oil free list

RSPO Palm Oil Consumer Fact Sheet 2013

EU food labelling infographic Dec 2014


Zoo campaigns and guides; see what others are doing

Philadelphia Zoo Unless Campaign. See this case study from the Unless campaign

Zoos Victoria Don’t Palm Us Off

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Palm Oil Crisis. See this case study from CMZ