Empowering Smart, Sustainable & Environmentally-Conscious Choices

Sustainability First campaign aims to empower consumers all around the world with information that helps them align their lifestyles with their values, in order to take smart, sustainable and environmentally-conscious decisions.

Worldwide production for palm oil has increased for five decades to meet Western consumers’ needs, and today the oil can be found in almost 50% of day-to-day products, from chocolates and crisps to shampoo and lipsticks. In the past few years there has been a movement to make palm oil production more sustainable, not only protecting the environment but also the people who work in the sector and whose livelihoods depend on the crop. 

The conversation around palm oil is starting to shift with increased awareness on what sustainable palm oil production looks like and why it is so crucial to support certified sustainable palm oil. Thus, Sustainability First seeks to draw on research, analysis, and expertise on palm oil to foster real and fact-based conversation on what ethical consumerism looks like and what is the role of palm oil in this debate. 

Below we have collated some of the most frequently asked questions on palm oil to raise awareness on what putting sustainability first means in practice. 

Q&A on Palm Oil Sustainability

Question: Would boycotting palm oil be good for the environment?
Answer: Boycotts, such as the ‘no palm oil’ movement, do not actually stop deforestation or help to save the environment. When certain commodities are banned and boycotted, the demand for these products shifts elsewhere. For instance, if Western consumers refuse to buy palm oil, the producers would have no choice but to look for buyers in other regions (which may often have less strict environmental regulations). Consequently, the link between palm oil supply and consumer demand is crucial here. Also, nearly half of all supermarket products contain palm oil which makes boycotting it extremely difficult.

Question: What would happen if consumers stopped using palm oil and switched to other vegetable oils?
Answer: Alternative vegetable oils like coconut, soybean, rapeseed or sunflower, have been shown contribute to more deforestation, as the oils require up to 10 times the amount of land to produce the same quantity of palm oil. It should also be mentioned that the palm oil sector employs around 6 million people worldwide, 2.2 million of whom are smallholder farmers, who rely on palm oil as their only source of income. A boycott of the product would severely damage not only their lives, but the economies of the countries that they live in.

Question: What is certified sustainable palm oil?
Answer: The increase in the global demand of palm oil has led to the establishment of different certification schemes to monitor palm oil production to guarantee the highest possible sustainability standards. Whilst certifications schemes have been established by various palm oil producing countries, the ones of most importance are the schemes regulating Malaysia and Indonesia, the world’s largest palm oil producers.

Question: What are the different palm oil certifications?
Answer: Over the years, a plethora of different schemes were formed in order to assess and audit palm oil supply chains. Food products that contain sustainable palm oil, and have been certified by these schemes are labelled with a seal indicated the certifying body. These labels are similar to the Fair-Trade coffee label and the Rainforest Alliance cocoa label. Some of the different certification schemes include: Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) and Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO). While some are voluntary initiatives (such as the RSPO), others are mandatory national schemes (such as the MSPO).

Question: What can I do as a consumer?
Answer: Learn more about palm oil sustainability, and bring up this topic with friends and family. With the amount of misinformation about palm oil, many people may think they are helping the environment by simply boycotting palm oil, when in fact this could have a negative impact on both the environment and the livelihoods of millions of people. Choose products that contain certified sustainable palm oil and demand further transparency from the companies whose products contain palm oil. Sustainability is only reached when governments, companies and consumers work together to achieve long-term chance in the way we use and produce palm oil.

Our mission is to empower consumers to make smart, sustainable and environmentally-conscious choices.