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Why orangutans deserve better than a palm oil ban

How do you promote a message when the public is opposed to it? Especially when adorable orangutans are used to stir up emotions?

We’ve just been to an excellent seminar at Chester Zoo to discuss that very challenge, specifically on the subject of palm oil.

Palm oil, as you may know, is present in countless food products, but poorly-run plantations have contributed to the world’s deforestation.

A common social media response is to say “Ban palm oil!” Like and share, sign the petition. Of course, the issue is more complex than that.

1. Using other vegetable oils would increase deforestation, because of all the land used to grow oil crops, the oil palm uses 6.6% to produce 38.7% of the world’s vegetable oil.

2. Many global commodities cause deforestation, particularly timber, beef and leather, with palm oil one of the smallest contributors – so palm oil campaigns are diverting attention from other, more damaging industries.

3. Millions of people in some of the world’s poorest regions depend on palm oil farming for a basic living – some 3.5m in Indonesia alone.

4. Shunning palm oil just ignores the problem! You haven’t rescued any baby apes simply by picking up a jar that says “no palm oil” on it.

Conservationists at Chester Zoo, along with the WWF and environmental consultants Efeca, are showing how working together to change the palm oil industry is our only chance to repair some of the damage.

They showed a gathering of some of the UK’s best-known food brands that the best way the food industry can help is to choose sustainable palm oil, which has been produced in line with RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) rules. These include banning deforestation and using responsible practices throughout the supply chain.

Chester Zoo’s team also revealed how reforestation projects were restoring orangutans’ natural habitats and helping to combat extinction. This is seriously exciting work.

At Bluestorm we have been working for more than 10 years with clients who are pioneers in the field of sustainable palm oil. So Chester Zoo’s event was a great opportunity to learn how others in the food industry are tackling the palm oil issue, and how we can collectively spread the message about how to give palm oil – and orangutans – a sustainable future.

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