Palm oil is found in everything from chocolates and processed foods to toothpaste and cosmetics. But the way it's produced could spell disaster for the natural world.
Most palm oil is grown in Malaysia and Indonesia on land that was once thriving rainforest. As global demand grows, more and more forests are being cleared. Forests that are home to endangered animals such as orang-utans, tigers, elephants and rhinos. Local communities are losing the forest they rely on, too. The loss of forest also fuels climate change.
But it doesn't have to be this way.
In 2003, we began working with the palm oil industry to make it more sustainable. Our efforts helped create the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a group that includes every link in the global supply chain, from growers to retailers.
The RSPO has developed a set of international standards for responsible palm oil production, and palm oil growers are certified against these by independent assessors. This makes sure important conservation areas aren't lost to palm oil plantations. It also reduces the impact of plantations on soil and water in the rainforest. And it helps protect local biodiversity.
We're working with the industry so that palm oil can be produced without resorting to further rainforest destruction. Things are really taking off. Before 2008 there was no sustainably certified palm oil on the market. Today, about 7% of all the palm oil produced in the world is RSPO-certified.
Making a commitment
With sustainable palm oil now a reality, there's no reason why more brands can't commit to using it.
In 2009 we published a Palm Oil Scorecard which assessed companies throughout Europe, and put pressure on those that had committed to sustainable palm oil in principle, but still weren't buying the final product.
Before our campaign, companies including major UK supermarkets and manufacturers were buying less than a quarter of the sustainable palm oil on the market. That's since risen to 60%.
It's a good start. But to protect precious rainforests, we want to see a future where every drop of palm oil comes from sustainable sources. By urging more manufacturers, retailers and consumers to play their part, we can make it happen.
- More than 1,600,000 tonnes of sustainable palm oil have been sold so far
- 85% of palm oil production happens in Indonesia and Malaysia