Palm Oil

The single greatest threat facing orangutans today is habitat loss through deforestation. The key driver for deforestation is the palm oil industry. 

Global Forest Watch advises that the average annual forest loss between 2010 – 2019 was 585,4000 hectares – the equivalent of ~68 rugby fields per hour. The total loss of forest in that time was almost 5.9 million hectares of humid primary forest. 

It is estimated that 750 to 1,250 orangutans are being killed during human-orangutan conflicts each year (IUCN) which is up to one orangutan every seven hours.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation sees the result of the palm oil industry expansion on a daily basis and we know that the conservation of orangutan habitat is crucial to the survival of the series. 

We encourage you to download our Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) List to help you make an informed choice when purchasing products.



What is palm oil?

Palm Oil Fruit

Palm oil is the world’s most popular vegetable oil and comes from the fruit of the oil palm Elaeis guineensis. It is used in many processed foods, including ice cream, chocolate, chips, cereals, frozen foods, margarine, baked goods and fruit juice.  It may appear on labels as vegetable oil or be even less visible as a component of other ingredients. Palm oil is also used widely in personal care, cosmetic and household products including soap, toothpaste, shampoo, cosmetics, laundry powders and detergents. And it is used as a raw material for biofuels.

What is sustainable palm oil?

About 19% of the globally produced palm oil is now ‘Certified Sustainable Palm Oil’ (CSPO), which means that the oil has been produced according to eight principles:

  1. Commitment to transparency
  2. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations
  3. Commitment to long-term economic and financial viability
  4. Use of appropriate best practices by growers and millers
  5. Environmental responsibility and conservation of natural resources and biodiversity
  6. Responsible consideration of employers, and of individuals and communities affected by growers and mills
  7. Responsible development of new plantings
  8. Commitment to continuous improvement in key areas of activity

CSPO can be sold via one of four different supply chains:

  1. Identity-preserved (IP) CSPO can be traced back to one certified supply base.
  2. Segregated (SG) CSPO can be traced back to several certified supply bases.
  3. Mass Balance (MB) CSPO is mixed with ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain.
  4. Book and Claim (BC) CSPO, which is a certificate trading system. Manufacturers and retailers can buy credits from RSPO-certified growers, crushers and independent smallholders, but continue to buy non-certified palm oil. (RSPO)

Due to the growing awareness within the general public, increasing pressure has been applied to corporations, with the result that in recent years a number of major retailers and manufacturers are now committed to buying CSPO. However, globally there are still many brands moving too slow or even going backwards (WWF).

BOS Australia’s position on palm oil

BOS Australia’s palm oil policy supports the use of identity-preserved and segregated certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO). We believe its adoption is achievable in the Australian market if sufficient consumer pressure is brought to bear.  We acknowledge that the shift to sustainable production and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification process is not without its issues, however, we believe it remains the most acceptable solution currently available.

BOS Australia is a member of The Australasian Responsible Palm Oil Network and the position statement can be viewed here – Responsible Palm Oil Network.

BOSA’s overarching objective is to protect orangutans and to stop deforestation as a result of palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia.

We plan to achieve this objective through the following strategies.

  1. Inform and mobilise the Australian public
  2. Lobby for the transparent labelling of palm oil. 
  3. Lobby for the use of sustainable palm oil 

What can I do about palm oil?

There are a number of things you can do:

  • Contact manufacturers directly and ask why they are using palm oil and if it’s CSPO.
  • Check the ingredients – if the product contains palm oil (usually labelled as vegetable oil or fat), check to see if it has the CSPO logo or contact the manufacturer to get details on the oil’s source. If it’s not CSPO, seek an alternative product and let the manufacturer know why you’ve chosen not to buy the product.
  • Download the Palm Oil Investigations Scanner App and use when shopping to identify products that use CSPO palm oil.
  • Letters, protest postcards and petitions all play a part in informing the manufacturers and government that the community wants change.
  • Inform your family, friends and colleagues of the issue.
  • A number of groups would welcome your support in campaigning for truth in labelling and protection of the rainforest:

Melbourne Zoo’s ‘Don’t Palm Us Off‘ campaign.

Palm oil resources

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand allows palm oil to be labelled simply as ‘vegetable oil’ and indeed its presence can be even less visible as many of the minor components of a product – e.g. colourings, flavourings, emulsifiers and humectants – are commonly palm oil derived.

If the saturated fat content is around 50%, the likelihood of the vegetable oil being palm oil is high.

In cosmetics, palm oil is labelled as Elaeis guineensis but as with the food industry, its presence is often less obvious. Any ingredient which includes the word ‘palm’ (e.g. palmitate, palmitoyl, or simply palm) includes palm oil. Other ingredients which commonly, but not always, use palm oil include: cetyl alcohol, isopropyl, sodium lauryl sulphate, steareths, fatty alcohol sulphates, glycerine, cocoa butter equivalent and cocoa butter substitute.

How do I make an informed choice?

BOS Australia has put together a list of products which manufacturers tell us are palm oil free or contain segregated certified sustainable palm oil.

Some things to consider when reviewing this list:

  • The list is not all inclusive – if you know of any other products using CSPO palm oil, please send details through to us at
  • Where labelling is not definitive, we have attempted to confirm the information in this list through letters from our supporters to the manufacturers.
  • The list is not an official accreditation of suppliers’ claims as we do not conduct independent product testing. There are heavy penalties for making false claims on the packaging so when a supplier makes a claim on pack, we take that as an honest and informed claim.
  • Nearly all Australian manufacturers contacted informed us that where products did contain palm oil, it was from sustainable sources. Membership of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil alone is not a sufficient guarantee of sustainability. RSPO certification is a more demanding standard but we are yet to uncover many Australia producers sourcing certified sustainable palm oil.
  • Product specifications can change – please advise us if you suspect palm oil to be in any of the products on our list.
  • The list is based on the specification for products sold in Australia. International brands may have different specifications in different countries. 
  • The list is based on a product-by-product basis rather than at company level. Many companies listed manufacture other products that do contain palm oil.



How Can You Help

There are lots of ways you can support orangutans and help ensure the survival of this precious ape.

Adopt an Orangutan

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Orangutans are endangered and at risk of extinction. Habitat destruction results in hundreds of orphaned orangutans, who rely on our care every year. You can help by adopting one. Their dedicated ‘nannies’ teach them everything they need to know for when it’s time to release them back to the wild. You can follow their progress through Forest School.

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