The versatility and widespread use of palm oil often mask a major concern. Its unsustainable production is a key driver of deforestation and environmental degradation.


One of the biggest impacts of unsustainable palm oil production is deforestation. In order to make way for oil palm plantations, vast areas of tropical forests are cleared, destroying the habitat of countless species and disrupting delicate ecosystems. In Indonesia and Malaysia, two major palm oil-producing countries, it is estimated that 70% of the expansion of oil palm plantations occurred on forest land between 2008 and 2015.

© Chris J Ratcliffe

Biodiversity Loss

The clearing of tropical forests for oil palm plantations has led to a decline in biodiversity, with many species facing extinction. Orangutans, elephants, tigers, and numerous other animals have lost their homes due to deforestation.

Climate Change

Burning forests to make way for plantations releases significant amounts of greenhouse gases. Moreover, the removal of forests means the carbon stored in them is released into the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change.

Pollution and Land Degradation

Palm oil mills generate wastewater called Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME), which can pollute waterways if it is not treated properly. Additionally, the use of agrochemicals in oil palm plantations can contaminate soil and water sources.

Labour Exploitation

Unsustainable palm oil production is often associated with labour exploitation, with workers facing issues like low wages, unsafe working conditions, and, sometimes, even forced labour. Indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, as their lands are often targeted for oil palm plantations.