Chester Zoo has announced that four areas across the UK have pledged to become ‘sustainable palm oil communities’, part of a project to prevent habitat destruction and protect biodiversity.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of the African oil palm. The product is both affordable and efficient, making it the world’s most widely-used vegetable oil.
The county of Dorset, city of Plymouth, town of Saltash in Cornwall, and village of Mochdre in North Wales have all committed to Chester Zoo‘s ambitious movement.
The initiative, first unveiled in 2019, is designed to protect vital habitat for wildlife and prevent the extinction of species, such as critically endangered orangutans.
“Despite significant progress, products containing unsustainable palm oil still come into the UK every single day,” said Cat Barton, field programmes manager at Chester Zoo.
Chester Zoo’s sustainable palm oil project
“However, as more and more places get on board with our new sustainable palm oil communities movement to demand sustainability, the pressure is being cranked up on the major suppliers to change and move towards deforestation-free palm oil.”
“We’re on the cusp of making sustainable palm oil the norm,” Barton added.
The unsustainable production of palm oil is eradicating vast areas of rainforest. Chester became the world’s first sustainable palm oil community in 2019, with the project later launching in Oxford and Newquay.
The initiative requires restaurants, schools, workplaces and attractions within sustainable palm oil communities to use and support sustainable palm oil in order to prevent habitat destruction and protect biodiversity.
“The palm oil issue is complex and not at all black and white,” said Faye Sherlock, sustainable communities project officer at Chester Zoo.
“Due to its high yield from small land areas when compared to other vegetable oil crops, boycotting palm oil is counterproductive; shifting the issue elsewhere, creating even greater habitat loss and negative impact on biodiversity,” she added.
Chester Zoo’s new conservation masterplan
“We strongly believe therefore that part of the solution is embracing deforestation-free sustainable palm oil – raising awareness with individuals, communities and businesses and creating increased demand for sustainable.”
Efeca, a consultancy providing businesses with support on the sustainable and legal sourcing of natural resources, is leading the move to make Dorset a sustainable palm oil community.
“Having worked with multinationals and governments on sustainable palm oil for many years, everyone at Efeca wanted to give something back to our local community,” said Emily Fripp, Efeca director.
“We worked alongside Chester Zoo and Chester as they achieved their sustainable palm oil city status, so we now want to help Dorset become the world’s first sustainable palm oil county.”
Earlier this year, Chester Zoo unveiled an ambitious conservation masterplan. The attraction is also creating a 10-mile ‘Nature Recovery Corridor’ in order to restore wildlife-rich habitats from Chester to Ellesmere Port.
Images: Chester Zoo