Why Boycotting Palm Oil Won’t Work

Palm oil comes at a price. The production of palm oil has a negative impact on the environment.It is one of the causes for vast deforestation and as a result the reason why orangutans and other animals are on the verge of extinction. Not to mention that by clearing rain forests we are also displacing indigenous people.

The high demand for palm oil has caused land which was once predominantly covered by primary forest or which housed protected species and biodiversity, to be cleared in order to be converted into palm oil plantations. According to “Say No To Palm Oil”, palm oil is grown throughout Africa, Asia, North America, and South America, with 85% of all palm oil globally produced and exported from Indonesia and Malaysia. It is expected that by 2022, the global market for palm oil will double in value to 88 billion. This means that the demand for palm oil is only increasing.

According to a report published by Grand View Research, crude palm oil is expected to witness the highest growth of 7.5% from 2015 to 2022. Global palm oil market demand was 74.01 million tons in 2014 and is expected to reach 128.20 million tons by 2022, growing at a CAGR of 7.3% from 2014 to 2022.

This is no surprise since palm oil is pretty much in everything from food to cosmetic products. It’s also cheap and efficient. According to the Smithsonian, palm oil is still a better alternative than other crops since no other crop can yield even a third as much oil per acre planted.

To put things into perspective, an estimated 300 football fields worth of rain forest are cleared every hour to make space for palm oil plantation.That’s a lot of land cleared for palm oil production. Alternative vegetable crops use up to 10 times more land than palm oil making palm oil the safest option.

So how does this affect us?

Well if you want to continue to eat foods like Nutella (remember-palm oil is in everything!) and ramen (looking at you college students) then you have to be part of the solution.

What’s the solution you ask? Well this is where it gets complicated.

Many articles and videos surfacing on social media claim that in order to help stop deforestation, we must boycott products that contain palm oil. But is this really the best solution? As I’ve stated before the demand for palm oil is only increasing. This problem isn’t going away simply by boycotting foods that contain palm oil. It’s almost impossible since so many of the products we use contain palm oil and often times many of the consumers don’t even know this. Boycotting palm oil just isn’t an effective and realistic way to help stop deforestation.The better solution is to push corporations for the production and use of sustainable palm oil and for consumers to buy products that contain sustainable palm oil.

According to WWF, growers, traders, manufacturers, retailers, investors and consumers can all contribute to a system in which enough palm oil is produced to meet the world’s needs while the environment, animals and local communities are protected.

What is sustainable palm oil?

Sustainable palm oil is produced by palm oil plantations which have been independently audited and certified against the RSPO — Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil standard. In order for palm oil to be sustainable it must adhere to RSPO’s 8 principles:

According to WWF, The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO).

A RSPO noteworthy criteria states “no primary forests or areas which contain significant concentrations of biodiversity (e.g. endangered species) or fragile ecosystems, or areas which are fundamental to meeting basic or traditional cultural needs of local communities (high conservation value areas), can be cleared. “ This is huge step towards stopping deforestation.

To get more of a sense of their criteria you can check out this video here:


By pushing these corporations and producers to follow this certification system, we can help reduce the negative impacts of palm oil production on the environment and communities.

Sustainable palm oil would also fulfill increasing global food demand,support affordable food prices, support poverty reduction, and safeguard social interests, communities and workers.

Sustainable palm oil has proven that it’s the best option for us to help the environment. Boycotting products that contain palm oil has proved that it doesn’t work. Not only is it ineffective because of the high demand for palm oil but it’s also a solution that doesn’t help small scale farmers in countries like Malaysia who rely on palm oil production to support their families.

By promoting sustainable palm oil we can help the environment, help working families, and help protect animals. All we have to do is raise awareness and demand companies to start buying sustainable palm oil. Or as Greenpeace’s Rahamwati says, “As NGO’s and consumers it is key that we demand transparency from the whole supply chain. Change might not happen overnight, so we need to keep a close watch.”