Palm Oil | WWF

What's palm oil?

Palm oil is the world's most produced, consumed and traded vegetable oil.

It is widely used in the manufacturing of many products, from margarine to lipstick, biscuits to candles, chocolate to laundry detergent, and biofuels. 

But growing palm oil can devaste forests, wildlife, communities and the global climate.

Nature is threatened by unsustainable growth and production

In addition to beef, soy and other land uses, palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of biodiversity loss.

Palm oil grows best in low lying, wet tropical areas – exactly where rainforests grow naturally.

Clearing for palm oil plantations has led to widespread destruction of rainforests and peatland degradation, most significantly in Indonesia and Malaysia, with new palm oil expansion now threatening forests and other natural habitats such as savannahs in other parts of Asia, Central and South America and Central and West Africa.  

Irresponsible palm oil expansion has caused the loss of habitats of threatened and endangered species including orangutans, elephants and tigers.

Expansion has also often been at the expense of the rights and interests of local communities and indigenous peoples. Conflicts arising from the employment conditions of plantation workers and discrimination against smallholders have also cast shadows on the sector.

The growth of the industry has threatened freshwater ecosystems and caused soil erosion, soil pollution and air pollution. The burning of forests and peatlands to clear and manage land for oil palm plantation releases massive quantities of carbon dioxide, fueling climate change and transboundary haze that has polluted the skies of cities far away from the source.

Yet palm oil is also a very efficient crop and has contributed to rural poverty alleviation in many regions.

Palm oil doesn’t have to be destructive, and in fact has the potential to be a major force for sustainable development.

The solution is to produce it in a responsible way. 

WWF’s vision is a future where all palm oil is produced without causing deforestation, peatland and environmental degradation or harming wildlife, where workers are treated fairly, and communities' rights are respected, and producers including smallholder farmers have access to tools for responsible production and access to benefit from the market for responsible palm oil.

Where palm oil is produced, people, wildlife and habitats should be protected at a landscape level, and negative impacts should not be displaced elsewhere. We aim to encourage increased demand for, and use of, palm oil produced using such practices.


For this massive global shift to happen, everyone needs to do their part.

Companies producing palm oil need to adhere to robust standards for responsible production, companies that trade and use palm oil need to demand that their palm oil suppliers adhere to these standards and credibly trace their palm oil to responsible sources. Governments and financial institutions play crucial roles in creating an environment where illegal and irresponsibly produced palm oil production and consumption is no longer tolerated. Consumers and NGOs need to keep these businesses and government accountable.

WWF’s goals for palm oil are to:

  • Protect: Wildlife and the environment is protected from expansion, and palm oil driven deforestation and natural habitat conversion is halted

  • Produce: Production is sustainable in resilient and biodiverse landscapes, no longer contributes to climate change, and the industry provides sustainable livelihoods, reduces poverty and respects human rights

  • Restore: The industry becomes a driver for wildlife conservation and restoration efforts, ensuring that landscapes with palm oil are healthy and living

What we're doing

WWF works with actors across the supply chain from producers to retailers, with governments of producing and purchasing countries, with financial institutions, and with other NGOs and consumers. We seek to work collaboratively towards the best solutions to make sustainable palm oil mainstream in a way that protects nature, improves livelihoods for the many millions of people that depend on it for their income and to ensure food security for a growing global population. To deliver a sustainable palm oil industry, WWF is working globally to deliver impact across palm oil producing regions in South East Asia, Central and West Africa, and Central and South America through a number of interventions.

NEWS AND UPDATES

SUSTAINABLE SINGAPORE: THE IMPORTANCE OF TRANSFORMING TO SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL


"When produced irresponsibly, palm oil can have a devastating impact [...] Elizabeth Clarke, Conservation Director, WWF Singapore shares the importance of using sustainable palm oil."

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WWF Report Gives High Marks To RSPO 2018 Standards


"A new assessment published by WWF gives the most recent version of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard adopted in November 2018 high marks with regards to its potential to achieve environmental and social impacts at scale."

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POIG MEMBERS AMONG THOSE LEADING THE WAY OF WWF PALM OIL BUYER SCORECARD 2020


"Ferrero and L’Oreal, POIG members assessed by the Scorecard ranked first and second respectively under the manufacturing sector, setting benchmarks in supply chain innovations for companies to follow."

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MAJOR RAINFOREST DESTROYER IN INDONESIA PLEDGES TO ADDRESS ITS DEFORESTATION LEGACY


Long-awaited palm oil policy by POSCO International sets the stage for action on deforestation. South Korea’s largest trading company, POSCO International, has published a long-awaited zero deforestation policy for its global palm oil operations.

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WWF STATEMENT ON THE 2020 PALM OIL BUYERS SCORECARD


With the launch of the 2020 Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard, WWF Press Release about a statement on the results of the companies' commitment towards sustainable palm oil production. 


 

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HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE FIRST SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL DIALOGUE IN INDIA


"RSPO hosted the first edition of the Sustainable Palm Oil Dialogue (SPOD) in India on 21 November at the India and Sustainability Standards 2019 event, organised by Centre for Responsible Business (CRB). With 700 attendees, more than 40 partner organisations and over 100 speakers, the conference was a melting pot for the exchange of diverse multi-stakeholder perspectives and ideas from thought leaders, experts, practitioners and policy makers on business sustainability."

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Wildlife corridors to save Borneo elephants – in pictures


Deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia has endangered the Borneo elephant, which depends on forest connectivity to survive, by isolating it from large foraging grounds. Now, some plantations are working with WWF-Malaysia to create ecological corridors to enable the animals to travel between forest patches. 

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RSPO HOTSPOT MONITORING


"The RSPO has been actively monitoring, with satellite technology, all detected fire hotspots within both RSPO certified and non-certified concessions in Malaysia and Indonesia. Since January 2018, we have made this satellite information, along with the location of member concession areas, publicly available on our website." 

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POLLUTING PALM-OIL PLANTATIONS HAVE BEEN BREAKING RULES FOR DECADES, INDONESIA FINDS 


 

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OUR PLANET: THE NEED FOR SUSTAINABLE AND DEFORESTATION-FREE PALM OIL


'Our Planet' showcases the impact oil palm has had on orangutans, but it also reveals that there is far more at stake if we fail to change our path. To save our jungles, we need palm oil to be sustainable and deforestation-free.

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© James Morgan / WWF International
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© Audra Melton / WWF-US

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