Is Sustainable Palm Oil Working?

Created by Fussy Vegan, Modified on Sat, 16 Oct 2021 at 12:06 PM by Fussy Vegan

in this article, we look at some hard facts on palm oil production in Indonesia and whether sustainable palm oil production practices is having a positive impact or not.

Some key facts about palm oil and being vegan:


Palm oil is vegan. Every major vegan certification organisation in the world considers palm oil to be vegan, including PETA, The Vegan Society (The founder of the Vegan Society actually coined the term vegan) and Vegan Australia. Those that choose to avoid it are making an ethical decision to do so, but it is still vegan. Whilst there is no legal definition of the term "vegan" in Australia, it is important that there is a consistency on what is considered vegan. To that end, we try and align the criteria with what we consider vegan in our apps with what the major vegan organisations do. We are certainly in favour of sustainable palm oil, but palm oil, regardless of whether it is sustainably sourced is still considered as being vegan. We have seem some people think that only sustainable palm oil is considered vegan but this is not the case.

Because Indonesia is the biggest producer of palm oil, we have focused our research for this post on palm oil in Indonesia. We may look at doing a similar post for other countries at some stage. 

Indonesia is the largest producer of palm oil in the world accounting for 53.3% of global palm oil output in 2015. Malaysia came in second with 32% of global output.

Palm oil has never been the biggest cause of deforestation in Indonesia, ever. Deforestation in Indonesia for palm oil production hit its peak in 2008 when palm plantations were responsible for 40% of total deforestation in Indonesia. That means that a combination of other uses was responsible for 60% of deforestation in 2008. In 2016, deforestation for palm plantations was down to less than 15% of total deforestation in Indonesia.

As we stated above, deforestation due to palm plantations was down significantly in 2016 from its peak in 2008. So are they producing less palm oil in Indonesia? Have they just moved the deforestation to other countries? To an extent yes, especially in West Africa and South America. But is that the cause of the decrease in deforestation for palm plantations in Indonesia? Let us look at the figures for palm oil production in Indonesia for those same years (2008 and 2016).

Total palm oil production in Indonesia in 2008 was 20,500,000 Metric Tons. Total palm oil production in Indonesia in 2016 was 36,000,000 Metric Tons. That is an increase in production of over 75% even though deforestation due to palm plantations was 275,000 ha in 2008 and only 50,000 ha in 2016. That is a decrease of 82%

To summarise, production increased by 75% from 2008 to 2016, but deforestation for palm plantations decreased by 82% in the same period. How is that possible? It is called SUSTAINABLE PALM OIL PRODUCTION.

Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on in regards to palm oil, you cannot argue with facts. Cleary sustainable palm oil production has had a significantly positive impact on deforestation rates in Indonesia, the worlds biggest palm oil producer.

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