Palm oil impact


Palm oil is found in over half all packaged items on our supermarket shelves, from snack foods to soaps Demand is still growing, as are oil palm plantations... but at what price to tropical forests and the biodiversity found there?

Global production of palm oil has doubled over the last decade. By 2000, palm oil was the most produced and traded vegetable oil, accounting for 40% of all vegetable oils traded internationally. By 2006, the percentage had risen to 65%. Worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double again by 2050 to 240 million tonnes. New plantations are being developed and existing ones are being expanded in Indonesia, Malaysia and other Asian countries, as well as in Africa and Latin America.

The establishment of vast monoculture oil plam plantations has a number of serious environmental impacts like large-scale forest conversion and the loss of critical habitat for endangered species. Indonesia is home to some of the most rich and biodiverse rainforest in the world. It contains over 80 endemic species and some of the world’s most unique and iconic endangered wildlife such as the orangutan, elephant and tiger. But these animals are in grave danger. Every hour 300 football fields of precious remaining forest is being ploughed to the ground across South East Asia to make way for palm oil plantations.

In the last 20 years, over 3.5 million hectares of Indonesian and Malaysian forest have been destroyed to make way for palm oil. Almost 80% of orangutan habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years. We are losing over 6,000 orangutans a year. There are now only 400 Sumatran tigers left in the world.

New plantations can also create social conflicts if the rights and livelihoods of local communities are ignored. Not only can this cause negative external impacts but it can also affect the companies involved, and hamper the ability of the companies to expand as planned.

In recent years, the world’s biggest companies have woken up to the environmental costs associated with palm oil and the other commodities they buy. 
In 2015, Indonesia was wracked by the worst forest fires for almost twenty years. The disaster, the result of decades of forest and peatland destruction, thrust Indonesia’s plantation industries into the global spotlight. Most companies are unable even to say how much of their palm oil comes from suppliers that comply with their own sourcing standards. Some companies reviewed were: Colgate-Palmolive, Ikea, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg, PepsiCo, Starbucks...

How can you help?
-Buy sustainable palm oil products
-Sign petitions like:

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