If you’ve heard of palm oil, you’ve probably heard it’s bad for the environment. But the truth is it doesn’t have to be.
If it’s grown sustainably, palm oil production can benefit local communities, and help to protect valuable species and forests. By using sustainable practices, farmers can increase their income by making more palm oil from less land.
When palm oil is grown unsustainably it can have a big impact on people and the environment, sometimes destroying forests and the homes of animals like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger.
Which is why the RSPO is working across the whole industry - from farmers to grocery stores - to get everyone working towards sustainable palm oil.
Palm oil is used in many of the everyday items found on the supermarket shelf. Palm oil is extremely popular for several reasons: it has excellent cooking properties, it maintains its properties even under high temperatures, its smooth and creamy texture and absence of smell make it a perfect ingredient in many recipes, including baked goods like cookies.
The impacts of unsustainable production can be devastating on the environment and on local people. Impacts can include: 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.
A growing number of organisations in the palm oil industry have made commitments to adopt more sustainable practices. The result of this transition is an increasing amount of palm oil in our products produced and sourced in a sustainable way.
Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops per unit of cultivated land. Although using other vegetable oils seems like a practical solution, it would actually create similar, if not larger, environmental and social problems.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry. Therefore, the best solution is to ensure you buy products that contain sustainable palm oil.