What’s the solution?

While the story of palm oil has so far been bleak, palm oil can and often is produced without deforestation. Unmask Palm Oil supports the use of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). We strongly believe that the palm oil industry needs to be reformed not destroyed. We believe a complete boycott of palm oil would result in even worse social and environmental outcomes.

It is important to understand that palm oil itself is a completely benign product, it is the land use change, not palm oil, that is causing the environmental and social impacts. With well enforced regulation and proper management to stop deforestation, palm oil can be just as environmentally friendly as any other oil.

Palm oils biggest advantage is its productivity. Of all land used to produce vegetable oils, palm oil uses just 5 percent but produces 38 percent of the global vegetable oil supply. If we stopped buying palm oil altogether then we would need to find up to ten times more land than we currently use. A boycott could therefore result in other oils causing even greater levels of deforestation in other parts of the world.

Add to this the fact that palm oils productivity is just getting started, with existing methods of plantation management and plant selection, the current average yield of 2-4 tonnes per hectare can be improved to 10 tonnes per hectare. Scientists believe that 18.5 tonnes is possible in the near future, with some even suggesting 50 tonnes per hectare could eventually become viable. This means more palm oil from less land, a win win for farmers and the rainforest.

On a more practical level, palm oil is very much here to stay. It is a significant part of South East Asian economies, accounting for 10 percent of Malaysian GDP and 5 percent of its jobs. Manufacturers value it for its versatile properties and low cost. Palm oils characteristics are not easily matched by any other oil meaning the alternatives are often animal fats or chemicals.

Consumers can demand palm oil that isn’t from deforested areas by only buying Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). Consumer pressure in combination with well enforced local legislation will result in the preservation of pristine rainforest.