What's palm oil got to do with orangutans?

The unsustainable production of palm oil is one of the biggest threats facing the forests and wildlife of Borneo and Sumatra, including orangutans.

But the whole ecosystem is affected. High profile animals such as orangutans, tigers and elephants represent only a fraction of the huge range of species found in these tropical regions.

So what is palm oil and how do we tackle the problems surrounding it?

What is Palm Oil?


Palm oil comes from the fruit of the oil palm plant, which is an agricultural crop native to west Africa. It's a type of edible oil used in the production of foods such as cake, chocolate and margarine. It’s also in many cosmetics, cleaning products and can be used as a biofuel.

Palm oil is often labelled on products using the generic term ‘vegetable oil’ and demand for palm oil is increasing – up to 50% of the products in an average UK supermarket contain it.

The good news...

Despite all the negative press which surrounds palm oil, it is the most productive type of edible oil plant. It yields more oil per hectare than any other edible oil. This means it has the potential to be a more environmentally friendly oil if grown in the right way: sustainably.

By 2015, it will be mandatory in the EU for manufacturers to label palm oil on food products. This will allow consumers like us to make a fully informed choice about whether or not we want to purchase products containing palm oil. This is the first step in creating a market for sustainable palm oil.

We believe a boycott of palm oil is not the answer. A better choice is sustainable palm oil..

The way forward…


A committee was set up in 2004 – The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). They have many guidelines which include ensuring that certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) is produced with minimal impact on wildlife, indigenous people and the environment.

Many companies are now starting to label their products as containing sustainable palm oil. Creating a demand for sustainable palm oil is an important step in helping to protect animals like orangutans and other species that shares its habitat.

What you can do...

• Check labels in the supermarket before you buy
• Check that products contain sustainable palm oil
• Ask your supermarket to only stock products containing palm oil if they're sustainably produced
• Raise funds for orangutan conservation – see our project page.


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