Certified Sustainable Palm Oil

© Jürgen Freund / WWF-Canon

Certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO)
is palm oil that has been grown on a plantation that has been managed and certified according to the principles and criteria of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

This means the plantation was established on land that did not contain significant biodiversity, wildlife habitat or other environmental values, and meets the highest environmental, social and economic standards as set out by the RSPO.

WWF believes that encouraging greater uptake of CSPO is the best way to go about halting the environmental and social impacts of unsustainable palm oil production. The good news is that the amount of CSPO available to buyers is increasing.

In 2013, 15% of the world’s palm oil had been certified as sustainable, up from 10% in 2011. This is the equivalent of more than 8 million tonnes grown on certified plantations, covering 2.4 million hectares.

While supply of CSPO is increasing, significant challenges remain. In 2012, only 52% of CSPO was sold as certified product, which has frustrated some producers who have committed to sustainability, largely in response to concerns from consumer markets, but are not always seeing demand for their certified product from those same markets.

Growers that are making the effort to implement the RSPO’s standards, which includes action on ensuring traceability, minimizing the use of hazardous chemicals and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, need to be rewarded for doing so.

WWF is urging retailers and manufacturers to use the data available from the RSPO to start buying from the leaders rather than the laggards. By doing so, they will be sending a sustainability signal that will affect the whole supply chain and help halt the devastating consequences of unsustainable palm oil production.

How do I know if my grocery products contain CSPO?

At the moment, it’s almost impossible for Australians to know which products contain palm oil, let alone sustainable palm oil, unless you contact the company who made the product directly and ask them.

There is currently no law in Australia that requires palm oil to be specifically labelled on the list of ingredients. Instead it appears as ‘vegetable oil’, which does not reveal whether the product uses palm oil or not. Further information on palm oil labelling is available from Food Standards Australia and New Zealand.


WWF is recommending that Australians:



Certified palm oil that is fully traceable and meets the standards of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Check out the various supply chain options.

Boycotting is not
the answer


If unsustainable palm oil is so bad, then why don’t we just boycott products from companies that use it?

It’s a reasonable question, and one that would appear to make sense. But by boycotting palm oil you could be contributing to an even greater problem.

If enough people boycott products containing palm oil, then companies are likely to start buying alternative vegetable oils, which in many cases take a lot more land to produce. Other oils require up to nine times as much land to produce as palm oil.

The result could be even greater deforestation and a much faster loss of species, which is something nobody wants to see happen.

Alternatively, boycotting a company might push them to stop buying palm oil from countries where deforestation is occurring, which would take away the incentive for producers in those countries to grow sustainable palm oil.

These producers would then look for alternative buyers, possibly with no interest in sustainability, and our efforts to halt the deforestation, loss of species and release of greenhouse gases caused by unsustainable palm oil production would suffer a major set-back.

For these reasons WWF believes that encouraging greater uptake of CSPO is a much better way to tackle the serious environmental and social problems associated with unsustainable palm oil.