Act for Wildlife, led by the UK’s number one zoo, Chester Zoo, are working with partners globally to promote sustainable palm oil production. It launched the Sustainable Palm Oil Challenge – a way of celebrating companies committed to sustainable palm oil, supporting those that want to become sustainable and making it easier for everybody to choose sustainable products.
Commonly found, yet destructive
Palm oil is the most commonly produced vegetable oil, present in many of the products we consume daily, from foods, cosmetics to cleaning products and fuels. Unfortunately, the environmental impacts associated with palm oil production are substantial. Day after day, deforestation is occurring as enormous areas of rainforest are burned, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and destroying the habitats of endangered species such as the orangutan.
There are many complex issues around the production of palm oil. The zoo doesn’t believe in a complete boycott of the product as, if we were to force companies to stop using palm oil altogether, they would turn to an alternative vegetable oil to meet the global demand. It would merely be shifting the problem elsewhere and, because other oil crops – such as coconuts, olives, sunflowers and maize – are less productive per square kilometre, even more land would need to be converted to agricultural land. That means even more habitat lost and an even bigger catastrophe for wildlife around the world. What we really need to do is demand urgent change of the palm oil industry. We need to create a demand for products that contain only deforestation-free, certified sustainable palm oil.
Video credit: Chester Zoo / YouTube
Sustainable alternatives carrying lesser impact exist. Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) is awarded only to palm oil meeting credible standards of sustainability. This means that the oil has been produced in a way that follows environmental best practice, including conservation of natural resources and promotes biodiversity. The well-being of producing communities, including their long-term financial and social prosperity, is also considered.
An entire city, one business at a time
Companies far and wide are invited to participate in the sustainable palm oil challenge. Closer to home in Chester, Act for Wildlife’s goal is to help Chester achieve Sustainable Palm Oil City status. This involves restaurants, workplaces, schools, visitor attractions, manufacturers and retailers committing to use only sustainable palm oil. Their website provides useful resources, such as a toolkit for restaurant owners and chefs to implement practical tips to make more sustainable choices.
This story shows how Chester Zoo supports Goal 15: Life on Land, specifically Target 15.2: “By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally”