Well oiled

Steer clear of unsustainable palm oil

From ‘stearamidopropyldimethylamine’ to plain old ‘palmate’, palm oil appears in our food under a number of guises. In fact, around 50% of everyday goods contain it, and it’s a staple ingredient in many processed and packaged foods.1

But are all these names hiding the real truth about palm oil: that it is a significant cause of deforestation and a serious threat to the survival of various species, such as the orangutang?

Challenge yourself to get informed and aim for snacks which contain sustainable palm oil, or no palm oil at all.



Here are a few reasons to take action.

Click for more info or scroll to read them all.


Hundreds of thousands of hectares of greenhouse gas-absorbing trees are cleared each year to make way for oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis), and the fires which are often used to clear the land are a major source of CO2 pollution, turning up the heat on the global thermostat.2


While palm oil production does create jobs and opportunities for many poor communities, it has also been the cause of many land disputes, with reports of displaced communities and illegal land grabs. In some cases, the expansion of plantations has led to forest-dwelling peoples being forced out of their homes.


Many rare and endangered species are being forced out of their natural habitats by the planting of oil palm plantations. In Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for 85% of the world’s palm oil production, the orangutan population is under severe threat of extinction. The Orangutan Project estimates that over 6,000 of the orange apes are lost every year.3


of orangutan's habitat has disappeared in the last 20 years.3


Palm oil is higher in saturated fat than other types of vegetable oil, containing 6.7 grams of saturated fat in every tablespoon, compared to 1.9 grams in olive oil, and 1 gram in canola oil. 4

Eating a diet high in saturated fats is linked to causing high cholesterol, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease.

Global Goals

In September 2017, a historic agreement was signed by UN member nations agreeing to work towards 17 Global Goals for Sustainable Development by 2030, otherwise known as the SDGs.

Achieving these ambitious goals will require action from governments, businesses, NGOs, and individuals alike. We can - and must - all play our part.

By making the 'Well oiled' pledge, you are contributing in your own small way to the following SDG targets:

2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality

12.8: By 2030, ensure that people everywhere have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature

15.2: By 2020, promote the implementation of sustainable management of all types of forests, halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and substantially increase afforestation and reforestation globally

15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species

15.b: Mobilize significant resources from all sources and at all levels to finance sustainable forest management and provide adequate incentives to developing countries to advance such management, including for conservation and reforestation


You don’t need to boycott palm oil altogether. It seems to be hidden in almost everything we buy, so cutting it out completely would be tricky. Here are some tips on how to make your palm oil consumption more sustainable:

1. Responsible Palm Oil: choose products that only use certified sustainable palm oil (which is grown responsibly and with consideration for the environment and local communities). Look out for the RSPO or Green Palm labels, thankfully they’re becoming more and more common.

2. Do your research: check out WWF's Palm Oil Buyers Scorecard to find out how your favourite brands measure up in their commitment to ending deforestation.

3. Use your voice: write to companies asking that they commit to using sustainable palm oil, and encourage others to do the same. Every voice counts!

4. Palm oil free: while it might be hard to find palm-oil free products, there are some out there: Ethical Consumer have compiled a decent list.

5. Break it down: given that palm oil is found in everything from shampoo to chocolate, completely cutting it out in one fell swoop can be daunting and, well, unrealistic. Break your pledge down into manageable chunks - each week or month focusing on a different area of shopping: snacks; cleaning products; beauty products etc.

Success Stories


in total



Palm oil or "sustainably sourced palm oil" seems to be a lot of produce. I suppose the way to avoid it is to make as much of the food I eat from scratch as possible.

All labels checked - minimal purchases of manufactured food - oils used olive and rape seed

Had to stop buying my favourite oat cream for apple crumbles :-(

Nailed it but difficult with so many soaps etc containing palm oil- I bought organic and fairtrade to ensure the products were made with sustainable palm oil when it was in products.

It was difficult at first but it's become a habit and one I believe in

Thought this one would be the easiest - totally not! Decided to go for a total ban, as checking the source is too hard. The practical impact was I had to give up chocolate, biscuits, sliced bread, margarine, packet soups, and lots of sauces, spreads and cakes. Having looked into palm oil a bit more I'm conflicted about whether to continue with a total ban. Bad for the rainforest - definitely. But bad for the planet? Hard to say, given it is so much more efficient in production per hectare than other vegetable oils.

Since undertaking this pledge, I've become totally committed to checking the contents of the products I purchase to ensure they do not contain palm oil.

This one will be ongoing. I will continue to check products for palm oil and aim to purchase products that are free of palm oil or use sustainable palm oil. It has been interesting to learn about something I knew very little about.

Not always easy to see on labels on internet purchase

I didn't realise how hard it is to avoid palm oil! Have changed brands where possible but can't find alternatives for everything, and eating out doesn't allow for checking. Will continue to try harder.

Need to take reading glasses to supermarket to be able to check ingredients. This seems a worthwhile and relatively easy to continue.

I do online shops and I'm used to just buying everything that I'm used to. I definitely need to make a conscious effort to re-pick all my favourites.

I've looked at all the labels of products I bought in the last 2 months and definitely put most products back on the shelves when they contained palm oil...

I made a conscious effort to check new packaging for the RSPO logo and proof that the product was sustainably sourced, but I didn't check the products I already used and it didn't occur to me until now that they might not be suitable! I will try this again in the future.

This one is really difficult because it's in the most unexpected places. Also very hard to know if it's really sustainable.

It was really disheartening to discover some foods I love to eat or buy regularly like oven pizzas, or Nutella, use palm oil. But it was an eye opener reading the food labels and discovering how many products do use it, and I'll definitely continue to check and try to buy alternatives where I can.

"Its easy to find lists of companies and products that use sustainably sourced palm oil - not so easy sometimes to stick to buying the products!! I look to support companies who are making good progress in switching their sourcing if I can't get a product that contains totally sustainably sourced palm oil. I am fully committed to continuing with this - if you see what carnage the industry has wreaked across Asia, you will too!! This is an easy reference list:- https://6gupp2m546k1gbxng1rlf2m3-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/SustainablePalmOilShoppingList-PDF.pdf"

One of the harder Do Actions I've done! Chester Zoo's shopping list has been a huge help to be confident in knowing which brands source sustainable palm oil, having also learnt more about the environmental and social impacts of using unsustainable palm oil, more determined to keep up with this pledge!

I did have a Krispy Kreme in the office at one stage, but they use fully Supply Chain Certified sustainable palm oil in their products and are "a member of the RSPO, leading the way in our field".

I consumed virtually zero palm oil containing foods and will aim to continue to do so.

Since the pledge I started to check for palm oil in everything I buy. Likely I realised that only a few products had palm oil. I have now changed these products to no palm oil. It becomes more difficult when you eat outside and you cannot find alternatives, but the vast majority of the products I buy are now free palm oil or sustainable palm oil.

Need to look more carefully at products we buy to ensure contains only sustainable palm oil.

This is a tough one! So many products contain palm oil, and most of those don't mention anything about the sustainability of it.

It was a bit daunting because I had to look at what I was buying most of the time to ensure it didn't have palm oil as an ingredient. But yer, it was worth it!

This made me realise just how must palm oil is used in goods which I wouldn't usually buy, but definitely challenged over xmas with festive foods. My children are now banned from all goods containing palm too.

An issue I encountered was the fact that many dairy free sweet treats (biscuits, cookies, wafers etc) use palm oil as a substitute for butter fats. As a vegan this limits the choice even more! It did discourage a few naughty snacks but it would be interested to see what trade-offs environmentally there are between palm oil and butter.

Much more aware, but so hard to do.

Palm oil in food is just a tip of a melting iceberg. Over 60% of palm oil is used as "bio-fuel". That's where pseudo-green business does more harm than good.

This pledge definitely raised my awareness for the amount of products made with palm oil in general, and unsustainable palm oil in particular.

This is a lifestyle change - not a fortnight :)

Had to remember to check ingredients in some of my shopping, but will certainly try to continue.

I avoided buying products with palm oil completely, where I made sure to check the ingredients of products, such as peanut butter. On several occasions I chose brands I have not had before due to no palm oil in the ingredients.

I have tried to cut out all food products that contain palm oil, but I think i could do better to read food labels and product labels to ensure I do not purchase products which contain palm oil.

Most of the suppliers who use palm oil that I contacted already sustainably source this

Easy to do. Thanks for raising awareness!!

Quite tricky at times to get a clear indication from labelling on products, as palm oil comes under several names!! certainly some thing to keep my eye on.

I have become evangelical about not purchasing products which contain palm oil

Didn't buy anything with palm oil in it at all!

Mostly just focused on one product line for simplicity: biscuits! I guess I'll have to make the pledge again and again, covering new areas of life each time... definitely easier to chunk it up that way.

I was totally shocked at the number of off the shelf products that contain Palm Oil and found your guide very useful. The other positive event that has come from this pledge is that I have been cooking many more products from scratch which has been very satisfying.