Palm Oil: Sustainable or Not?

Palm Oil is an inexpensive vegetable oil that is commonly produced in Southeast Asia. Because of cost efficiency and versatility, global production and demand for palm oil is increasing rapidly. However, the production of palm oil is one of the main contributors to deforestation. Deforested areas contribute to greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and lack of biodiversity, specifically, involving the critical endangerment of the Sumatra and Borneo orangutan. Our arboreal friends are losing their homes to deliberate forest fires and even burned to death because they cannot escape the fires started by humans (WWF). The fires release smoke and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which pollutes the air with CO2 and methane emissions (WWF). 

The Need For Sustainable Palm Oil. Source RSPO’s website.

So, should we say goodbye to Palm Oil? Well, no, not necessarily. We know that unsustainable palm oil is a no-go, however sustainable palm oil is safe to use and is not sourced via deforestation. Organizations such as the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RPSO) and the San Diego Zoo Global are not only promoting awareness of the issue but are also getting involved to solve the problem at its source. 


The RSPO do their part by certifying sustainable palm oil growers, and those who refine and process the palm oil. If the handling process is sufficient, the RSPO can grant them a handler of certified sustainable palm oil. The RSPO defines themselves as a “not-for-profit that unites stakeholders from the 7 sectors of the palm oil industry: oil palm producers, processors or traders, consumer goods manufacturers, retailers, banks/investors, and environmental and social non-governmental organizations (NGOs), to develop and implement global standards for sustainable palm oil”. Products that use sustainable palm oil, are usually marked, making it easy for consumers to partake in making a change.