Sustainability at ZSL

Wildflower garden at ZSL London Zoo

As well as our extensive conservation field programmes and endangered species breeding work, ZSL is also working hard to improve the way we manage our Zoo sites to reduce negative environmental impacts and enhance ecological and social benefits.

Recycling facilities in Land of the Lions, ZSL London Zoo
Recycling facilities in Land of the Lions, ZSL London Zoo

At ZSL we are focusing on six priority areas where we are working towards reducing our environmental impact.

The priority areas are:

1. Improving waste management

  • We are reducing the amount of waste which is sent to landfill – less than 3% of our waste currently goes to landfill, and we are working on reducing this even further. We also recycle over 8 different waste streams including paper, plastic, oil and batteries.

2. Energy efficiency and encouraging renewable energy sources

  • We are reducing our energy and fuel consumption by installing new condensing boilers, installing energy efficient LED lighting, using electric vehicles on site and installing renewable energy systems.

3. Reducing water use

  • We are reducing the amount of water we use through improved management, fixing leaks and collecting rainwater into water butts and moats.

4. Using resources responsibly and encouraging sustainable procurement

  • We are promoting Fairtrade, organic, local and seasonal products in our Zoo shops and cafes, including selling only sustainably sourced fish on site.
  • Working towards ensuring that only sustainable palm oil is used in all products we purchase including food products, animal feedstuff and cleaning products.

5. Improving training and awareness of sustainability

  • We demonstrate green ideas to visitors with signs around the site on how to protect the environment and conserve local wildlife.

6. Enhancing biodiversity on site

  • We encourage local wildlife to our site with woodland areas, ponds, log piles and bird and bat nest boxes. 

Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects
Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects

Our policies and codes of conduct

Read our 2020-21 Sustainability report 


ZSL's Environmental Policies

Find out more about our Environmental Policy: PDF icon ZSL Environmental Policy 2022.pdf (1.04 MB) (1.04 MB)

Read our Palm Oil Position Statement: PDF icon Palm Oil Position Statement.pdf (1.01 MB) (1.01 MB)

Read our Sustainable Timber & Paper Policy: PDF icon Susatinable Timber & Paper Policy.pdf (2.48 MB) (2.48 MB)


ZSL's Supplier Code of Conduct

ZSL’s mission is ‘to achieve and promote the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats.’ 

ZSL is committed to ensuring that its mission and values are reflected in the suppliers with whom it does business, and in the products and services it procures.

Read our supplier Code of Conduct


Managing Eco-Friendly Estates

One of the central ways in which ZSL practices sustainability is through the reduction of our electricity and water use and our waste production, which is all thanks to our estates managers. We have an ISO14001 standard Environmental Management System.

Many of our animal exhibits are built and run in ingenious ways that make them much less wasteful, minimising their environmental impact and their cost. We are developing new ideas all the time, such as a new rainwater harvesting system.

Indian high street inside Land of the Lions
Indian high street inside Land of the Lions

Here are some of the ingenious ideas that have been put into practice to make our animal enclosures eco-friendly:

ZSL London Zoo

  • In Land of the Lions, we have re-used or refurbished existing buildings where possible instead of new constructions and we have re-used materials from other buildings and exhibits, including using spare railway stock from ZSL Whipsnade Zoo to re-create the Sasan Gir railway station. We have used only FSC approved timber and we have reduced the overall energy consumption of the exhibit by 20%. 
  • In Gorilla Kingdom, the environment has been built using only sustainable materials, such as FSC wood and bamboo instead of steel.
  • In Penguin Beach, the exhibit was built using only FSC wood and the concrete needed was reduced by 50% by utilising waste materials. The water use when running the exhibit is reduced by refilling less often and our explainers have even been telling our visitors all about MSC fish.
  • In the Clore Rainforest Exhibit, the ceiling was built using insulating layer that UV can penetrate, to use the sun to heat the interior and reduce energy use. We also use sustainable plants and compostable banners in the exhibit.

Penguin beach
Penguin beach at ZSL London Zoo

ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

  • In our Hullabazoo play area we have used floor tiles produced by Interface Carpets, our partners in the Net-Works project, which recycles discarded fish nets.
  • Our new visitor centre has achieved an A Rating under BREEAM (the world's leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings).

Whipsnade Visitor Centre - outside view
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo visitor centre


It's not only the running of the animal enclosures that can have an environmental impact. With the number of visitors that ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo get every year, we want to make sure that the catering and retail opportunities at our Zoos are as responsible as possible.

What we offer to our visitors at the Zoos needs to support ZSL's core conservation message. We select our stock for the gift shops very carefully, and source sustainable food locally for our on-site cafes. Some we even grow ourselves! 

We no longer sell single-use plastic water bottles in our Zoos
We no longer sell single-use plastic water bottles in our Zoos

In the Retail Department, every effort is made to find products that are sustainably and responsibly produced.

A wide range of different ways of reducing the impact of catering for so many people are used in our cafes and restaurants:

  • ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos have become the first in the UK to remove all single-use plastic water bottles from its shelves, as part of the #OneLess campaign to protect the world’s oceans from the devastating impacts of plastic pollution.
  • We have our own small garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo growing herbs, garlic, radishes, pumpkins and other food to use within the café  kitchen.
  • We use local suppliers where we can. At Whipsnade, all our meat is supplied through a local butcher who sources our fresh meat we use from within a 45 mile radius of the zoo. A local farm supplies our milk, fruit and vegetables. We reduce the amount of deliveries we have coming onto site where we can, but still ensuring we are giving a fresh produce to our customers.
  • ZSL is committed to sourcing fish from sustainable stocks throughout the Society and particular for use in the catering and animal departments. ZSL Whipsnade Zoo only use Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fish produce within the catering operation. Ampersand, who provide catering for venues such as ZSL London Zoo, carry MSC certification.
  • We are working towards ensuring that only sustainable palm oil is used in all products we purchase including food products, animal feedstuff and cleaning products. We support sustainable palm oil, timber, pulp and paper through our Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT), our projects in Indonesia and Cameroon, and as members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC UK).

Garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Garden at the Wild Bite cafe at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, which grows herbs and vegetables to use in the cafe kitchen

Though all eyes are on the animals at our Zoos, there is a vast amount of work that goes into the vegetation at ZSL London and ZSL Whipsnade Zoos.

Most animal exhibits need suitable foliage to create the right environments for particular species, and let’s not forget all the plant matter our grazers get through!

The horticulture department works hard to ensure that the sourcing, growing and disposal of all of this vegetation is as environmentally friendly as possible.

Father and daughter looking at sign in Butterfly Paradise surrounded by plants.

Part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) approved by Natural England, but our horticulture team go even further in trying to improve onsite diversity, collect sustainable timber and compost, as well as growing our own plants for the animals and exhibits.

Keeping chemical use down

Growing the vast variety of healthy plants for all the different species at the zoos, and keeping down unwanted invasives is a challenge. To keep pests down we use biocontrol, such as lacewing or ladybird larvae to eat pest insects.

Only minimal amounts of herbicides are used as a last resort for particularly resistant invasive species such as Japanese knotweed. These are applied in a very targeted way by injecting them directly into the weed plants, to reduce the amount of chemical reaching the soil. Otherwise, strimming and other mechanical control for weeds is used as much as possible.

Because of the problems that fertilizers can cause in waterways, we don't use fertiliser in the grounds of our Zoos. None of the plants are grown with mineral based fertilisers, that contain unsustainably sourced fish bone and blood, or peat based compost, which destroys valuable peat habitats.

Finally, all the tractors and other machinery that needs to be used to take care of the Zoo grounds is run on highly refined non-diesel fuels, that are less harmful to nearby humans and animals, and are less polluting of soil and waterways.


Most of the green waste produced at the zoos goes to good use. Waste wood is chipped to line enclosures and larger logs are piled into log stacks in the grounds to provide homes for invertebrates. The rest of the green waste is composted off site.

Water saving

Water is another valuable resource we need to use sparingly. We do not need to water plants in the grounds much, by choosing species strategically and planting at the correct times of year, as well as relying on plants natural resilience.

Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects
Log piles make excellent homes for all sorts of native insects

Procuring plants

It is difficult to find all the plants needed for all the different species at the zoo, but the horticulture team do their best to ensure new plants are from sustainable provenance and require as little transport as possible. We source plants using local suppliers who demonstrate good environmental practice to keep the environmental impact as low as possible.

Thousands of saplings of native trees are also grown regularly to make sure the grounds are well vegetated, even if older trees and shrubs die off. In early 2017, we planted more than 2,500 native trees at ZSL London Zoo, to provide some of our plant eating animals with lots of good food.

Traditional woodland management methods are used to keep the plants in the grounds producing regular supplies of new animal fodder, and the team use plant material grown on-site to produce leaf silage for the winter months. Silage involves the fermentation of plant matter, which produced lactic acid from microbial activity. This preserves the matter well and lactic acid is digestible by animals, providing a nutritious supply of food when plant growth is low.

ZSL is an international conservation charity working to create a world where wildlife thrives. At ZSL we are committed to ensuring that its vision, purpose and values are reflected in our procurement practices.

We recognise that unsustainable palm oil production has serious negative environmental and social impacts. However, we also recognise that the palm oil industry plays an important role in employment and economic development for many countries, and palm oil is currently the most efficient vegetable oil crop in terms of yield per hectare.

Replacing palm oil with other crops is not an effective solution as it may lead to further deforestation and biodiversity loss through increased land conversion. Boycotting palm oil could also result in diminished efforts to produce palm oil sustainably.


Supporting sustainable palm oil

Due to these factors, we believe that transforming the market to a sustainable supply of palm oil that supports both people and wildlife is the most practical solution. ZSL supports these aims through our conservation programmes in Indonesia and Cameroon working with palm oil companies and smallholders to reduce negative impacts on the ground.

We continue to develop SPOTT (Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit) – a free, online platform that assesses commodity producers and traders on the public disclosure of their operations, policies and progress related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Investors, buyers and other key influencers can use SPOTT assessments to inform stakeholder engagement, manage ESG risk, and increase transparency across multiple industries.

ZSL also actively participates in the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and contributed to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Oil Palm Task Force situation analysis on palm oil and biodiversity in 2018. Based on the findings of the IUCN report, we call on the industry to improve the management of areas set aside for conservation, and for better planning of new plantations to avoid clearing tropical forest and peatlands.

As such, where ZSL procures products containing palm oil, we are committed to sourcing only certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) and palm kernel (CSPK) where available, as a minimum defined by the latest applicable version of the RSPO Principles and Criteria. ZSL defines sustainable palm oil according to the Principles and Criteria of the RSPO. Palm oil produced according to the RSPO standard not only protects forests, peatland, biodiversity, and wildlife, but also respects the rights of humans, workers, and local communities.

Conservation organisations supporting sustainable palm oil

ZSL has joined up with other conservation organisations who are committed to driving the palm oil industry in the right direction, by supporting a move to sustainable palm oil and not a blanket boycott.

Boycotting palm oil is a legitimate expression of consumers' social and environmental concerns, but we believe a blanket boycott of palm oil could lead to unintentional consequences.

Read the full statement for more details.


Our commitments

Specifically, by end of 2022, ZSL commits to:

  • Ensuring that all food products sold by ZSL that contain palm oil are manufactured and prepared with CSPO/K only as procured through one of the following approved RSPO physical supply chain options:
  1. 1. Identity preserved
  2. 2. Segregated
  3. 3. Mass balance
  • Requiring all suppliers to be independently audited against RSPO Supply Chain Certification Standards and Systems by accredited certification bodies and hold valid supply chain certificates.
  • Undertaking regular reviews to identify the use of palm oil in other products. Specifically, we will ensure that all palm oil in processed animal feed, cleaning, office supplies and retail products is physical CSPO/K in our UK offices and estates at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos. We will continue to engage the industry to develop physical certified supply chain options for palm kernel meal/expeller and other derivatives.
  • Working towards monitoring our use of all oils and fats to ensure we reduce waste and unnecessary consumption.

Where ZSL operates internationally and/or physical supply chains are not readily available, we will accept products made with non-physical CSPO/K via the Book and claim option.

Additionally, ZSL commits to:

  • Reviewing this Position Statement every two years as a minimum, or in response to substantive emerging issues to ensure this is still relevant and reflects ZSL’s stance on palm oil production.
  • Reviewing our suppliers to ensure their continued compliance with our Position Statement, any suppliers who are in non-compliance will need to develop action plans to meet ZSL requirements.
  • Monitoring our consumption of products containing palm oil. Responsibility for reviews and monitoring sits with the ZSL Sustainability Manager.
  • Not sourcing products labelled “palm oil free” and engaging with suppliers to encourage use of CSPO/K over alternative oils, especially those without certification.
  • Supporting efforts aimed at increasing the inclusivity of smallholders in sustainable palm oil supply chains, including through capacity building in producing countries and engagement with companies and multi-stakeholder platforms.
  • Educating suppliers on our stance and conservation activities.
  • Increasing public awareness of the debate surrounding palm oil and the role that supporting sustainable palm oil plays.
  • Working to improve the sustainability and wildlife conservation credentials of the RSPO standard, other certification standards, and of global production in general.

In some instances, suppliers may produce products, which contain non-CSPO/K, but they must not supply these specific products to ZSL. In these cases, suppliers will be made aware of this Position Statement and ZSL will work with suppliers to encourage the use of CSPO/K across all their supply chains.

ZSL will ensure that its staff and external agents and contractors are kept aware of this Position Statement and their individual responsibilities. ZSL reserves the right to terminate its relationship with a supplier in the case of a breach of Policy informed by this Position Statement.

Indonesia - Oil palm fruit in piles

How we support sustainable palm oil

Find out more about our conservation, policy and engagement work on palm oil