The expansion of palm oil plantations is a leading driver of deforestation and habitat loss in Southeast Asia, and increasingly in Latin America and Africa. In Indonesia and Malaysia, which collectively account for around 90% of global production, over 55 percent of plantation expansion has come at the expense of tropical forests.

As the world’s most heavily traded and consumed vegetable oil, demand for palm oil is expected to continue growing, further increasing pressures on forests. NWF works to enhance the capacity of voluntary standards and certification systems to reduce deforestation throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America.

The Issue

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.

What We Do

The National Wildlife Federation supports the use of only sustainably produced palm oil that is free from deforestation, peat clearance, and human rights abuses. We engage with all sectors across the supply chain – producers, traders, manufacturers, retailers, and end-users – to ensure that company policies are robust and that the implementation of sustainability commitments is transparent and verifiable.

We work to enhance the capacity of voluntary standards and certification systems to reduce deforestation throughout Southeast Asia and Latin America.

  • The National Wildlife Federation is an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a membership-based certification organization, with standards for environmental and social safeguards. The RSPO aims to transform markets and make sustainable palm oil the norm.
  • We collaborate with leading academic researchers to assess the effectiveness of standards, such as those of the RSPO, on deforestation and land-cover change.
  • The National Wildlife Federation sits on the High Stock Carbon Approach (HCSA) Steering Group, which oversees the development of a science-based approach for defining biodiverse, carbon-rich forests in need of protection, and to make them off-limits to agricultural development. We work to ensure the HCSA includes a robust, transparent, and verifiable monitoring system.

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