Palm oil is the most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, a common ingredient in many supermarket products. But unsustainable palm oil has a dark side. In Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 85% of global palm oil production, clearing land to grow oil palm trees has led to widespread deforestation, the loss of livelihoods and is associated with pollution. In 2015, WWF-Australia & Unilever worked in partnership from to raise awareness among producers, buyers and retailers on the benefits of switching to sustainable palm oil to accelerate the uptake of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil in Australia. Unilever, as one of the world’s major buyers of palm oil (buying approximately 8% of palm oil produced globally in 2015), was in an excellent position to help drive the uptake of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil by shifting their own supply chains as well as raising public awareness of the benefits of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) in Australia. WWF and Unilever are founding members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a not-for-profit organisation with 2000 members, including palm oil growers and buyers. The RSPO developed and implemented global standards for sustainable palm oil. 

Partnership wins

Unilever supported WWF-Australia's work to raise awareness among producers, buyers and retailers about the environmental and social benefits of switching to Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

WWF’s partnership with Unilever enabled WWF to collaborate with Cool Australia, to develop educational resources for teachers and students to learn about Certified Sustainable Palm Oil. Designed for Year 5 & 6 teachers, these school units were mapped to the Australian Curriculum, to teach problem solving and design thinking, and supported students to take action in their school communities.

The bottom line

Palm oil production does not have to be linked with large scale deforestation. The big buyers of palm oil, like Unilever, can help to create the market change to sustainable palm oil production practices. Working together with the industry, WWF and Unilever helped move sustainable palm oil towards being the accepted standard for this important ingredient, reducing the loss of rainforest homes for species like rhino, orangutan and tiger.