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 has been 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 that is compatible with the RSPO's Biodiversity Criteria.  

With support from partners, ZSL has launched the Sustainable Palm Oil Platform (, the premier online resource centre for all stakeholders in the palm oil supply chain, with over 200 pages of information, reports, case studies and tools needed to pursue more sustainable business practices.

In particular, ZSL has developed the Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT) for investors and other stakeholders in the palm oil sector, to assess oil palm growers on the information that they make publicly available about the sustainability of their operations, thereby building trust and increasing accountability in many of the industry's biggest companies.

ZSL SPOTT combines satellite mapping technology with in-depth performance assessments on 25 of the largest publicly listed oil palm growers, including 20 RSPO members and 5 non-members, plus one volunteer.

Shopping sustainably

You can find more information about sustainable palm oil on the RSPO website. There is also a handy list of products that carry the certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) trademark.

Project information

Key species

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

People involved

Leonie Lawrence 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