Palm oil

It’s hard to find anything on the shelves that doesn’t contain palm oil – it’s in about half of all supermarket products. But the palm oil industry is responsible for destroying Indonesia’s forests on an epic scale. This is accelerating climate change, and also forces people from their traditional lands and threatens orangutans with extinction. We need to change the industry and stop palm oil companies destroying forests.


Palm oil is amazingly versatile, which is why it’s become so popular. It’s an ingredient in food like biscuits and chocolate, as well as shampoo and toothpaste. To meet this demand, a huge industry has developed. Oil palms are grown in many tropical countries, although Indonesia is the largest producer in the world.

But this has all come at an enormous cost. Indonesia’s forests have been bulldozed, replaced with hectares upon hectares of plantations. Palm oil companies are encroaching on local communities and there are reports of violence and people being forced from their land. Meanwhile, orangutans and other species are being pushed to the edge of extinction.

The destruction of Indonesia’s forests is also a global problem. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change thanks to a double whammy effect. Clearing forests produces greenhouse gas emissions and, with fewer trees, less carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere.

Palm oil and peat

On top of this, large areas of Indonesia’s forest grow in deep, swampy peat which stores huge quantities of carbon. Oil palm plantations need dry land, so palm oil companies drain the peat, making it very flammable. Fires can rage out of control, releasing yet more carbon dioxide. Indonesia is the third greatest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, largely because of deforestation. Whenever fires break out, thick clouds of smoke blanket Indonesia and other countries, choking people and causing major health problems.

Learn more

5 problems with ‘sustainable’ palm oil

Supermarket products claim to contain 'sustainable' palm oil, but often it's anything but. Here's what you need to know about 'sustainable' palm oil.

How well do you know orangutans?

Orangutans are amazing, but did you know they're also incredible engineers? Find out more about one of our closest relatives.

There's a Rang-tan in my bedroom

When a young girl finds a Rang-tan hiding in under her bed, she learns all about the threats facing orangutans and their forests. Watch this animated gem.

For over 10 years, Greenpeace has been making the palm oil industry clean up its act. We’ve exposed how big brands like Nestlé, Unilever and Mars are using dirty palm oil from forest destroyers. Thanks to an outcry from people around the world, many have made commitments to drop dirty palm oil by 2020. But time is running out and companies need to do much more to meet this deadline.

The big brands need to investigate their palm oil suppliers and only buy from responsible growers that aren’t destroying forests or exploiting local people. Pressure from Greenpeace supporters has forced Wilmar, the biggest palm oil trader in the world, to announce a plan to map and monitor its suppliers. If Wilmar sticks to its word, other traders will be forced to do the same and palm oil producers that destroy forests will have no one to sell to.

Together, we can make sure companies keep their promises and protect Indonesia’s forests.

Tesco: stop doing deals with forest destroyers

The soya industry is also destroying forests, not least in Brazil. Tesco sells chicken and pork fed on soya from deforested land, so tell the CEO to set Tesco on the right path

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Keep exploring


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Demand for soya to feed cows, pigs and chickens is driving deforestation. Discover how the Amazon and other great forests are at risk.

Climate change

Our climate is breaking down, but it's in our power to prevent it getting worse. Learn about the causes of the climate crisis and the solutions to tackle it.