Chester Zoo

Statement in support of Sustainable Palm Oil

Posted: 1st October, 2021

The conservation organisations listed below are committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction, and support a move to sustainable palm oil and not a blanket boycott.


Palm oil produced according to the standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) or Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), as of 2018, is required to be deforestation-free. Manufacturers, retailers and traders all over the world have made bold commitments to removing deforestation from their supply chains - some are making swifter progress than others towards meeting these commitments.  There are no quick fixes, but the following actions will go a long way to cleaning up the palm oil industry:


  • Palm oil producers must stop converting forests, peatlands and other sensitive natural habitats to oil palm plantations. Instead, they should increase yields on existing plantations, and any expansion should be restricted to degraded land that is not classified as High Conservation Value or High Carbon Stock. They also need to be transparent about their production methods and avoid labour, land and human rights violations.
  • Companies manufacturing or selling products made with palm oil and its derivatives need to investigate their suppliers and only source palm oil from responsible growers, ensuring their supply chain is traceable, and communicating honestly with their customers about their progress on their journey to using solely sustainable palm oil.
  • We expect the RSPO and its members to adhere to the criteria and take action when there is evidence of non-compliance.
  • Consumers can support retailers and manufacturers which are committed to removing deforestation from their products, join social media campaigns to drive the industry in the right direction, and support conservation organisations who are working to break the link between palm oil and deforestation.


There is no denying that the rapid expansion of the palm oil industry over the last 30 years has had a catastrophic environmental and social impact across Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.  Consumers all over the world have been horrified to learn about the destructive practices rife within the industry, and the orangutan has become an emblem for the clash between development and conservation.


Boycotting palm oil is a legitimate expression of consumers’ social and environmental concerns, but the question we urge individuals and businesses to ask themselves is:


Will this action help wildlife, forests and communities?


The problem with a blanket boycott is that it punishes indiscriminately. It removes the market for palm oil from those companies which are making genuine efforts and progress towards sustainability, as well as those which aren’t. And if we remove the market for sustainable palm oil, we also remove the incentive for companies to abide by the better management practices which reduce the footprint of the industry - in terms of impacts on wildlife, forests, climate and human rights.


A blanket boycott of palm oil could lead to the following unintentional consequences:


  • More deforestation, not less

If the international market for palm oil disappears, palm oil companies and smallholder farmers alike could switch to producing an alternative crop. Oil palms are the most productive oil crop in the world, producing around 35% of global vegetable oil supplies on less than 10% of the total land under oil crops [1]. A switch to another type of edible vegetable oil (such as soybean oil) would require up to nine times as much land to produce the same yield. This will increase natural habitat loss, species loss and other impacts.


  • Increasing demand

A blanket boycott of palm oil could drive the price of palm oil down. This could increase demand, especially in markets which have less interest in sustainability. This reduces the incentive to produce environmentally sustainable palm oil.


All agriculture has an impact: bananas, beef, cane sugar, chocolate, coconuts, coffee, pineapples, soybeans, tea and vanilla are all produced in previously forested tropical areas[2].

With over 4.5 million people in Indonesia alone relying on the palm oil industry as their primary source of income, palm oil is here to stay. What we need to do is ensure that it is cultivated in the least damaging way possible. Oil palms do not need to be grown at the expense of forests and other sensitive natural habitats. Instead we need to break the link between development and the degradation of natural ecosystems.


The conservation organisations committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction, and support a move to sustainable palm oil and not a blanket boycott are


Sumatran Orangutan Society                                                 Orangutan Land Trust

Chester Zoo                                                                            WWF

Conservation International                                                     World Land Trust

Jane Goodall Institute Australia                                              Borneo Futures

Yayasan Orangutan Sumatera Lestari                                   Global Canopy

Hutan KOCP                                                                           Borneo Nature Foundation

Earthworm Foundation                                                           Zoological Society of London

Solidaridad                                                                              Orangutan Outreach

Global Environment Centre                                                    Orangutan Veterinary Aid

Orangutan Conservancy                                                         Danau Girang Field Centre

Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre                                Borneo Wildlife Preservation

Save Orangutans Now                                                           Twycross Zoo

Save the Rhino International                                                  WildCats Conservation Alliance

Borneo Rhino Alliance                                                            Save the Orangutan

Lincoln Park Zoo                                                                     Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

San Diego Zoo Global                                                            Conservation Medicine

Houston Zoo                                                                           Copenhagen Zoo

The Living Rainforest                                                              Beauval Nature

Naples Zoo                                                                              Zoos Victoria

Association of Zoos and Aquariums                                       Woodland Park Zoo

British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums            Wild Planet Trust

Wildlife Reserves Singapore                                                  Dartmoor Zoological Society

Taronga Conservation Society Australia                                Wellington Zoo

Auckland Zoo                                                                          National Marine Aquarium

The Deep                                                                                Bristol Zoological Society

National Wildlife Federation                                                    Forever Sabah

Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP)                        Marwell Wildlife

Yorkshire Wildlife Park                                                           Crocodiles of the World

Indianapolis Zoo                                                                     Toronto Zoo

Paradise Wildlife Park/Zoological Society of Hertfordshire    The Big Cat Sanctuary

Orana Wildlife Park                                                                 Detroit Zoological Society

Lubee Bat Conservancy                                                         Perth Zoo

Oregon Zoo                                                                             Wildlife Conservation Network

Jenkinson’s Aquarium                                                            Oklahoma City Zoo

Zoos South Australia                                                              Columbus Zoo

Orangutan Republik Foundation                                             Seratu Aatai

Borneo Child Aid                                                                     PM Haze

Tulsa Zoo                                                                                Kansas City Zoo

Little Rock Zoo                                                                        Blank Park Zoo

Staten Island Zoo                                                                    Wild Welfare

Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium                                Fondation Ensemble

Saint Louis Zoo                                                                       Ocean Conservation Trust

Malaysian Primatological Society                                           Aidenvironment Asia                         

Chicago Zoological Society / Brookfield Zoo                         Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park

Amici della Terra Onlus                                                          International Elephant Foundation

Great Plains Zoo                                                                     Zoo Knoxville

Santa Barbara Zoo                                                                 Verify Humanity

Audubon Nature Institute                                                        Zoo New England                                                                                                                                  




[2] Meijaard E and Sheil D (2019) The Moral Minefield of Ethical Oil Palm and Sustainable Development. Front. For. Glob. Change 2:22

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