Sustainable oil palm in Indonesia

Indonesia - Road through oil palm landscape

Oil palm plantations are making a significant contribution to the ongoing disappearance of Indonesia's tropical forests and the unique assembly of species that call them home. However, the palm oil they produce is extremely profitable, meaning the stakes are high for both the industry and the diverse ecosystems that are under threat.

ZSL’s Biodiversity and Oil Palm project is working to develop practical guidance that can assist the palm oil industry to reduce the impact it has on the rich wildlife and ecosystems in Indonesia.

Why we are there

There is little doubt that the expansion of oil palm plantations in Indonesia has played a leading role in the destruction of vast areas of rich tropical forest in Indonesia, which has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world. This is of enormous conservation concern as these forests are home to an extraordinary variety of species, from the Sumatran tiger to the rhinoceros hornbill, many of which are unique to Indonesia.

While palm oil is important for the economy, expansion cannot continue if this is at the cost of Indonesia's natural ecosystems. It is vital that the industry moves forward in a sustainable way. 

Key achievements and goals

ZSL was awarded a grant from the Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Program (BACP) to work with the palm oil industry and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) to develop an effective tool for assessing biodiversity in and around oil palm plantations compatible with the RSPO's Biodiversity Criteria.

ZSL is working with the Government of South Sumatra on a new landscape management project, KELOLA Sendang. This public-private-people partnership aims to address the challenges of deforestation, peatland degradation, wildfires and their associated climate impacts within the context of green growth and biodiversity conservation. The project supports the government, private sector and local communities, to pilot a sustainable management partnership model across the Sembilang-Dangku landscape of South Sumatra, an important habitat for Sumatran tigers and other wildlife.

As an active RSPO member, ZSL has worked to improve the RSPO standard by serving on the RSPO Board of Governors, participating in working groups, and developing further resources and guidance to assist RSPO members and others in producing, trading sourcing and promoting sustainable palm oil.

ZSL has developed the Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT) for investors and other corporate stakeholders, building trust and increasing accountability in many of the industry's biggest companies.

Shopping sustainably

Find out how you can support sustainable palm oil on our sustainability pages, or visit the RSPO website for more information.

Project information

Key species

  • Sumatran Tiger, Critically Endangered
  • Sumatran Orangutan, Critically Endangered

People involved

Michael Guindon manages ZSL’s global oil palm work

Partners and sponsors

  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation; Generation Foundation
  • WCS Indonesia; Wilmar International
  • Biodiversity and Agricultural Commodities Programme (BACP); Tesco Charity Trust

Further information