Palm oil

Last weekend my son and I went to Bournemouth to visit a friend, while there we visited Monkey World, it was the first time I’d been but had heard a bit about the rescue and rehabilitation work they do with primates.

red forest trees animal
Photo by Pixabay on

You can read about it at their rescue and rehabilitation page.

When we were at the orang-utan nursery one of the keepers was giving a talk about how their numbers continue to decline – 25 orangutans are being killed a day.  The two main reasons are deforestation and the illegal pet industry.

One of the reasons deforestation occurs is to make way for Palm Oil plantations. Oil palms need consistently high temperatures and humidity and lots of land, therefore plantations are usually established in rainforests, which offer the perfect conditions.  


Asda, Co-op FoodSainsbury’s, Tesco, M&S, Morrisons, and Waitrose all say they are committed to only using sustainable palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil(RSPO) in their own brand products.

BBC News reported that research carried out by Radio 4’s You & Yours asked nine supermarkets for the percentage of palm oil in their own brand products that was set apart and not mixed with other palm oil (sustainable or not), so was fully traceable to sustainable sources.

Only six supermarkets responded, Tesco used the most with 67% unmixed palm oil, closely followed by M&S with 66%. Co-op Food was 59% and Sainsbury’s 56.9%.  Asda and Waitrose both had 50%. 

In 2018, Iceland announced that it would stop using palm oil in its own brand products, since then they have reformulated over 130 of their regular products and launched over 300 new lines, in total around 450 products no longer contain palm oil.  Work on the remaining products should be completed by April 2019.

What products contain Palm Oil?

Worldwide Palm Oil consumption
Worldwide Palm  Oil consumption  Source: Rainforest Rescue

Some of the foods products that contain palm oil are:

  • Packaged Bread
  • Butters and Margarine
  • Pizza Dough
  • Instant Noodles
  • Chocolate
  • Cookies
  • Nut Butters
  • Cereals
  • Ready Meals

Some of the consumer goods that contain palm oil are:

  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Shower gel
  • Shaving cream
  • Make-up
  • Perfume
  • Skin care
  • Toothpaste
  • Washing detergent
  • Candles

Energy – Biofuels

Data released by T&E shows that in 2017, more than half of all palm oil used in Europe (but not the UK) was consumed by diesel cars and trucks.

In 2009, the EU introduced a law to promote biofuels, the use of palm oil to make biofuel has increased steadily from 825,000 tonnes in 2008 to 3.9 million tonnes in 2017.

A report for the European Commission explained that the environmental impact of biodiesel from palm oil is three times that of fossil diesel due to deforestation and peatland drainage.

On the 13th March 2019, the European Commission concluded that biofuel made from palm oil should not be allowed to count towards the EU renewable transport targets for national governments. 

What can we do, should we boycott palm oil?

If only it were that simple.  The palm oil industry for many people is their primary source of income, in Indonesia alone there are over 4.5 million palm oil farmers.

Sumatran Orangutan Society explain that should the international market for palm oil cease due to boycotts a number of things could happen.

  • Corporations and smallholder farmers could start producing a different kind of  crop, such as soybean oil, which requires up to ten times as much land to produce the same amount. This would result in more deforestation, not less.
  • The price of the palm oil would fall, making it more appealing in the use in biofuels and livestock feed. This would increase its demand in countries such as China and India, which currently import the largest amounts of palm oil.

This is what we can do:

  • Be informed and tell others about the problem.
  • Read labels, all food products in the EU are required to clearly show if they contain palm oil.
  • Non food items however can still use chemical names in an attempt to hide the fact that they are using palm oil.
  • Email the manufacturers to let them know why you’re no longer buying their product if it does not contains sustainably certified palm oil.
  • Email your MP to advocate the mandatory labelling of palm oil.
  • Join social media campaigns which are driving change in the industry.
  • Try to cook and bake your own meals when you  can.

The keeper at Monkey World ended her talk by saying that small consistent changes do make a difference, and I couldn’t agree more!

2 thoughts on “Palm oil

Add yours

  1. We at Orangutan Land Trust, like other NGOs engaged in addressing the impacts of unsustainable palm oil, urge consumers, brands and retailers to demand deforestation-free palm oil.
    #ChooseSustainable and #SaveOrangutans


  2. A shortlist of organisations who support deforestation-free, peat-free, exploitation-free Certified Sustainable Palm Oil and do not support a blanket boycott of palm oil:
    Orangutan Land Trust
    Sumatran Orangutan Society
    Orangutan Republik
    Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation
    Orangutan Outreach
    Orangutan Foundation
    Orangutan Appeal UK
    Yayasan Hutan, Alam dan Lingkungan Aceh (HAkA)
    Jane Goodall Institute
    Ape Action Africa
    Rainforest Alliance
    Rainforest Action Network
    Union of Concerned Scientists
    Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre
    WildCats Conservation Alliance
    International Union for the Conservation of Nature
    United Nations Environmental Program
    CORE Borneo
    Great Apes Survival Partnership
    Borneo Conservation Trust
    Conservation International
    Fauna and Flora International
    Wetlands International
    Global Canopy
    EcoHealth Alliance
    Global Environment Centre
    Wild Asia
    Indianapolis Zoo
    San Diego Zoo Global
    Naples Zoo
    Copenhagen Zoo
    Oklahoma Zoo
    Kansas City Zoo
    Zoological Society of London
    Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
    Taronga Zoo
    Oregon Zoo
    Bristol Zoo
    Chester Zoo
    Port Defiance Zoo
    Zoos Victoria
    Woodland Park Zoo
    Atlanta Zoo
    Wildlife Reserves Singapore
    Wellington Zoo
    Twycross Zoo
    World Association of Zoo and Aquariums
    European Association of Zoos and Aquaria
    British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums
    Association of Zoos and Aquariums
    Borneo Rhino Alliance
    LEAP Spiral
    International Labor Rights Forum
    National Wildlife Federation
    Singapore Environment Council
    World Resources Institute
    Earth Innovation Institute
    Global Environment Centre
    The Malaysian Nature Society
    Forest Peoples Programme
    Both Ends
    Sawit Watch
    Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP)
    Malaysian Primatological Society
    Primate Watch Malaysia

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