Palm oil is found in thousands of products ranging from fast food and baked goods to household items such as cosmetics, shampoos, deodorants, and detergents. It can even be found in industrial lubricants and transportation fuels.
Palm oil is one of the most highly productive vegetable oils in the world, and due to its high yields, production has more than doubled over the last decade. Unfortunately, this explosive growth has come at the expense of tropical forests and peatlands, some of the most biodiverse and carbon-rich places on earth, which have been cleared for plantation expansion. From orangutans and Sumatran tigers to rhinoceros and Borneo pygmy elephants, many iconic and critically endangered species have been driven to the edge of extinction by this habitat loss. The negative impacts of palm oil are felt by more than wildlife – social issues like forced and child labor have also been well documented in the industry, which has struggled to reform.
As the global demand for palm oil continues to rise there is a risk that the unsustainable plantation practices found in Indonesia and Malaysia will spread to new production areas elsewhere in Southeast Asia, as well as Africa and South America.