Blog: Leading with solutions – creating Sustainable Palm Oil Communities

Posted: 12th October, 2021

Deforestation threatens our entire planet. Chester Zoo’s Faye Sherlock looks at the incredible work being done to create Sustainable Palm Oil Communities across the UK and save tropical forests.

The world requires innovative, ambitious and urgent leadership. The climate and biodiversity crises puts our planet and our future generations on the line. I am proud to be part of a remarkable team at Chester Zoo leading on the solutions for a better sustainable future. Since 2017, our Sustainable Palm Oil Communities project takes on some of the most intractable challenges – bringing sustainability to the products that pervade our lives, supporting communities here and abroad and conserving biodiversity.

In 2019 Chester became the world’s very first Sustainable Palm Oil City. This meant over 50 organisations revolutionised their food supply chains and committed to sourcing palm oil – a vegetable oil used in thousands of household products from food items to cleaning materials and cosmetics - from entirely sustainable sources. This included organisations such as restaurants, schools and attractions. Supported by conservationists from Chester Zoo, this project has now expanded, and is being led in communities across the UK, from Dorset to Plymouth, welsh villages, to cities such as Oxford pledging to become Sustainable Palm Oil Communities.

Unsustainable palm oil is a huge threat to the world’s biodiversity. Over the last 50 years Borneo has lost 30% of its tropical forests and its wildlife has been devastated, such as half its population of critically endangered orangutan. The forests have been replaced with palm oil plantations. Products containing unsustainable palm oil come into the UK every day. That means that we can take action here, in our day to day lives, to protect our tropical forests.

Working collectively with plantations on the ground to consumers in our supermarkets, we can make a difference. As zoos and aquariums we have a unique role to play as buyers and as influencers in our communities. I am delighted BIAZA members Newquay Zoo and National Marine Aquarium have joined our Sustainable Palm Oil Communities campaign. But we must go even further.

Paignton Zoo is working to promote the use of the GIKI Badges App as a means of helping people work out which products contain sustainable palm oil when they shop, the zoo has also removed products that contain unsustainable palm oil from their catering outlets and shops, and worked with suppliers to find suitable alternatives. Newquay Zoo, also part of the Wild Planet Trust, work closely with Newquay Supports Sustainable Palm Oil, a local initiative, to foster community involvement and help move Newquay towards becoming a Sustainable Palm Oil Town.

The National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth is working to ensure sustainability at every level, from the café to the gift shop. They’re ensuring they only source products from manufacturers that have achieved an RSPO Supply Chain Certification.

This project is empowering. It can be difficult to relate a distant conservation issue on the other side of the world, such as the loss of Borneo’s wild spaces. But by showing people that they can make a difference, that they can play a role through changing their own behaviour and shopping, we can collapse that space and play a positive and empowering role.

I was absolutely delighted that our work was highlighted in the BBC’s landmark documentary series, The Earthshot Prize: Repairing Our Planet, led by HRH the Duke of Cambridge and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, as an evidenced-based solution to one of the world’s biggest and most urgent environmental challenges.

We have a long way to go, but as zoos we must keep sprinting to take the lead.

By Faye Sherlock,

Sustainable City Project Officer

If your organisation wants to get involved, please contact the Chester Zoo team on [email protected]

For more information on BIAZA’s palm oil statement, and sourcing guidelines, please see:

Statement in support of Sustainable Palm Oil | BIAZA

Sustainable Palm Oil | BIAZA

For more information and to see a list of the many leading conservation organisations committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction, supporting deforestation-free sustainable palm oil, please see:

To be added to this list please contact [email protected]

All blogs reflect the views of their author and are not a reflection of BIAZA's positions.