What is palm oil?
Grown only in the tropics, the oil palm tree produces high-quality oil found in food products, detergents, cosmetics and biofuel. Palm oil is a very efficient crop to grow, offering a far greater yield at a lower cost of production than other vegetable oils. This, combined with the versatility of its use, is why it’s so popular to grow in developing countries.
What makes current palm oil production unsustainable?
Increased demand for palm oil has caused extensive habitat destruction across South East Asia, and in particular, Indonesia and Malaysia, where around 85% of palm oil is grown. Deforestation is a major environmental crisis, and is now the second leading cause of climate change globally, after burning fossil fuels.
The demand for palm oil is so high that the industry will remain for the long term; habitat fragmentation and destruction has already occurred and moving demand to other vegetable oils would require more land for crops, impacting biodiversity elsewhere. It’s widely recognised amongst scientists and conservation organisations that deforestation-free certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) production is the most feasible solution to preventing further environmental damage whilst also tackling social and economic challenges.
What is Sustainable Palm Oil?
Chester Zoo’s field conservationists in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia have spent years working with local communities and plantation owners to create and maintain critical wildlife corridors throughout the palm oil plantations. Working in areas that have already suffered from major deforestation and fragmentation to educate local communities and support reforestation is now providing animals safe passage between plantations, and is creating a growing forest-agricultural mosaic landscape for wildlife in the region.
How can North Devon UNESCO Biosphere get involved?
By partnering with Chester Zoo and working to make the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere catchment area a Sustainable Palm Oil Community, we can do our part towards ensuring that the food products bought and sold in our Biosphere are sustainably sourced and ethically produced. This, in turn, will support those working on the ground in Malaysian Borneo and elsewhere to continue their vital work, protecting critically endangered species such as the Bornean orangutan.
We hope that businesses within our Biosphere, from restaurants and cafes to hotels, schools and manufacturers will get involved with the project, and help make our UNESCO designated North Devon Biosphere a Sustainable Palm Oil Community.