About palm oil - SOS – Sumatran Orangutan Society
Palm oil Kernels in Sumatra

Gita Defoe

SOS Position on Palm Oil

At SOS we are working towards a future where sustainable, deforestation-free palm oil production is the norm. We know that the journey to get there is not easy or straightforward but we also know that it is essential for a future where Sumatra’s rare, wild orangutans can thrive in resilient forests. Sustainable palm oil production is also a vital ambition for Sumatra’s economy and for the millions of forest-edge people who earn a living from small-scale agriculture – these communities must be empowered to earn an income by enriching, not exploiting, their forest resources.


SOS is an active member of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil). The RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When properly applied, these criteria can help to minimise the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.

The RSPO has more than 5,000 members worldwide who represent links all along the palm oil supply chain. The members have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO.

At SOS we recognise that robust standards and ambitious commitments need to be translated into real action on the ground. The scale of many palm oil producers, and the complexity of supply chains, is immense – and as such it is vital that we all help to identify, call out and hold to account companies that contravene their commitments to sustainable palm oil production. 

Working as a global community to put pressure on large-scale palm oil producers throughout the production chain is vital to ensure we can create a future where palm oil is produced in a way that does not threaten the health of the remaining rainforest and the rare wild orangutans which rely on it for their survival.  

What is SOS doing?

Our role at SOS is to continue to support our frontline partners on the ground in Sumatra to enable forest-edge communities to make a living using orangutan-friendly, small-scale, regenerative agriculture, including sustainable oil palm cultivation and agroforestry. 

We continuously monitor and evaluate this work to generate evidence and collate outcomes to share with the bigger players in the palm oil sector to demonstrate that not only is there a viable market for sustainable palm oil, but that it has long term benefits for orangutan and rainforest conservation in Sumatra (and beyond). 

While we always undertake detailed due diligence before we enter into partnership with any company, at SOS we also take a pragmatic view: if we can successfully work with some of the big players to educate them and develop viable markets that enable more forest-edge communities to adopt sustainable and regenerative oil palm agriculture, we can increase the scale and speed at which we can secure a resilient future for orangutans and their rainforests. 


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An adult sumatran orangutan

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