European palm oil import almost 69% sustainable

Our latest monitoring report shows the import and use of sustainable palm oil in 13 European countries.

European imports of palm oil decrease, but the share of sustainable palm oil imports has increased sharply, to almost 70%. This is the conclusion of the new monitoring report of the European Sustainable Palm Oil (ESPO) project of IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative and MVO – the Netherlands Oils and Fats Industry. Palm oil is the most used vegetable oil in the world and can be found in approximately half of all pre-packaged supermarket products.

European palm oil originates mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia, where annually tens of thousands of hectares of forest give way to palm oil plantations. Indonesia has 11 million hectares of palm oil, of which 5 million are owned by smallholder farmers. These millions of farmers are dependent on palm oil for their livelihood and can increase their production per hectare with better plant material and more efficient agricultural technologies. Joost Oorthuizen, director at IDH: ‘Together with MVO, we promote 100% sustainable European import. IDH also works closely with Indonesian governments and palm oil companies to make palm oil production more sustainable, to support compliance with forestry laws and to organize alternative sources of income for the local population that leaves forests and swamps undisturbed.’

The sharp increase of sustainable palm oil imports is partly due to intensive European collaboration. In 2015, palm oil companies in various countries joined forces on the initiative of IDH. Especially Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are well on their way to achieving 100%. More countries have joined recently. On the eve of the Dutch presidency of the EU in 2015, European governments also promised to support sustainable palm oil imports in the so-called ‘Amsterdam Declaration’.


The published report ‘Making sustainable palm oil the norm in Europe’ provides insights into the palm oil import and trade of 13 European countries and the certified production in Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2016, 2.83 million hectares were certified in accordance with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) standard, 1.9 million hectares as Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil (ISPO) and 260,000 hectares as Malaysian Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO). The report also shows that a growing number of European countries is joining the initiative. This puts Europe, as the second largest market for palm oil, in a better position to play a leading role in the sustainable production and trade of palm oil. Joost Oorthuizen: ‘Some organizations are of the opinion that deforestation for palm oil is unacceptable and we agree. Only we fear that a stop on palm oil imports will force smallholder farmers in Indonesia and Malaysia to grow other crops for their livelihood without the need to do so sustainably.’