Is Organic Palm Oil Sustainable?

Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that is harvested from a specific type of tree called the African oil palm (Elaeis Guineensis). Originally from west and southwest Africa, it was introduced by Dutch colonists to Indonesia and Malaysia in the late 19th century. Both countries are making up 85% of the global supply at present.

So is organic palm oil sustainable? Due to its versatility, palm oil is used in food, beauty, and the cleaning industry. This makes it high in demand, causing farmers to produce more. Conservationists and environmentalists are trying to minimize the production or try to change the way of production of palm oil. Farmers try to produce organic palm oil or in a sustainable organic way. This article may help you to think about it and find a way to an eco-friendly and sustainable life.

Key Takeaways

  • Palm oil is one of the most widely produced and consumed vegetable oils in the world, and it is a significant contributor to the global economy.
  • The palm oil industry has created jobs and generated revenue for many countries, particularly in Southeast Asia where the majority of palm oil is grown and processed. However, its production has also faced criticism for causing environmental degradation and contributing to deforestation.
  • Consumer awareness and education on organic palm oil is important because they can influence purchasing decisions and drive demand for sustainable and ethically produced palm oil.

Organic Palm Oil

Organic palm oil has its roots in traditional cultivation practices in West Africa, where it has been used for thousands of years as a cooking oil and in traditional medicine. Today, organic palm oil is produced in several countries in Africa, Asia, and South America, and is used in a wide range of food, cosmetic, and industrial products. The demand for organic palm oil continues to grow as consumers increasingly seek out products that are sustainably and ethically produced.

What is It?

Organic palm oil is a type of oil that is attained from the fruit of an oil palm. This means that the palm trees are grown and the oil is extracted using methods that minimize the use of synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals. The goal is to produce oil in a way that is environmentally sustainable and socially responsible, minimizing the harm to the environment and promote healthier soil and crops. Organic palm oil may be more expensive than conventional palm oil, but some consumers prefer it due to concerns about the environmental and social impact of conventional palm oil production.

Farming Method of Organic Palm Oil

Organic palm oil farming involves using techniques that are environmentally and socially responsible, without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Some of the methods used in organic palm oil farming include:

Soil preparation:

Prior to planting, the soil is tested for its fertility, pH, and organic matter content. Compost, organic fertilizer, and green manure are applied to improve soil health and fertility.

Tree selection:

Only organic palm seeds are used for planting. Trees are grown from seedlings that have been produced in nurseries that are certified organic.


The trees are spaced out appropriately to allow for good light penetration and sufficient space for growth.


Trees are watered using rainwater or treated water that does not contain any harmful chemicals.


Weeds are manually removed or controlled using natural methods like crop rotation, intercropping, or mulching.

Pest and disease management:

To control pests and diseases, farmers rely on natural methods such as releasing beneficial insects, using companion planting, and applying organic pesticides and fungicides.


The palm fruit is harvested manually, without the use of machinery, to minimize damage to the trees.

Crop rotation:

This involves rotating the crops grown on a piece of land to avoid soil depletion and maintain soil fertility.


This involves using organic matter, such as leaves and other plant material, to improve soil fertility.

Cover cropping:

This involves planting cover crops, such as legumes, to help improve soil fertility and structure.


Palm fruit is processed using organic methods that do not involve the use of synthetic chemicals.

Effects of Organic Palm Oil

The farming of palm oil has effects on the environment and economy, which could be both positive and negative.

Environmental Effect

Organic palm oil production can have positive and negative impacts on the environment. Some of the effects include:

Environmental effect

Positive impacts:

  • Biodiversity: Organic palm oil production relies on agroforestry, which involves growing palms alongside other crops and trees. This helps to maintain biodiversity and reduces the need for clear-cutting large areas of land.
  • Reduced pesticide use: Organic palm oil production prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides, reducing their harmful impact on the environment and human health.
  • Soil conservation: Organic palm oil production encourages the use of sustainable land management practices that maintain soil health and fertility, reducing the need for chemical fertilizers.

Negative impacts:

  • Deforestation: Organic palm oil production still requires large amounts of land for oil palm cultivation, and the conversion of forests for agriculture can result in habitat loss and fragmentation of wildlife.
  • Carbon emissions: Growing organic palm oil can still contribute to greenhouse gas emissions from land-use change, deforestation, and transportation.
  • Pesticide drift: Organic palm oil production may still result in pesticide drift into nearby waterways and communities, affecting water quality and wildlife habitat.

In conclusion, while organic palm oil production can have positive environmental impacts, it is important to consider the full range of environmental effects and ensure that sustainable practices are adopted throughout the entire supply chain.

Economic Effect

The economic impact of organic palm oil depends on various factors such as demand, supply, and production cost. Organic palm oil production can have both positive and negative economic effects.

Economic effect

Positive Effects:

  • Price of organic palm oil: Typically more expensive than conventional palm oil due to the higher cost of production, potentially increasing the income of farmers and processors.
  • Certification: The certification process of organic palm oil can also increase market access and competitiveness for organic palm oil producers.
  • Rural development: Organic palm oil production can contribute to rural development and poverty reduction, especially in developing countries where palm oil is a major export crop.

Negative effects:

  • Cost of labor: Organic palm oil production is often more labor-intensive and requires higher input costs, resulting in higher production costs compared to conventional palm oil.
  • Cost of certification: Organic certification process can be costly and time-consuming for producers, especially for small-scale farmers.
  • Supply limitation: The limited supply of organic palm oil may result in higher prices for consumers.

Overall, the economic impact of organic palm oil is complex and depends on various factors. However, as consumers become more conscious of the environmental and social impacts of their purchasing decisions, demand for organic palm oil is likely to grow.

✨ You May like: How is Reducing Food Waste Sustainable?

Comparison Between Conventional and Organic Palm Oil

Conventional and organic palm oil differ in terms of production methods, environmental impacts, and health implications.

FactsOrganic Palm OilConventional Palm Oil
EnvironmentalOrganic palm oil is produced using organic farming methods, without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals. organic palm oil is more environmentally sustainable, as it reduces the use of chemicals that can harm wildlife and pollute the soil and water.Conventional palm oil is produced using conventional agricultural methods which may involve the use of such chemicals and is often grown using monoculture methods that can hurt local ecosystems.
CostOrganic palm oil has lower yields and is more expensive due to the extra care and attention required during production.Conventional palm oil has much higher yields and is less expensive due to less care and attention required during production.
HealthIn terms of health, organic palm oil is considered to be safer as it is free of residual pesticides and chemicals. Additionally, some studies suggest that organic palm oil has a higher content of certain nutrients compared to conventional palm oil.Again conventional palm oil has been linked to various health concerns due to its high levels of saturated fat, as well as the potential presence of residual chemicals from pesticide use.
Comparison Between Conventional and Organic Palm Oil

In conclusion, the choice between conventional and organic palm oil completely depends on the consumer’s will and the availability of the products.

Debate on Sustainability of Organic Palm Oil

Although organic palm oil is useful for the consumer and the environment, there are some arguments for this fact.

Debate on sustainability of organic palm oil

Arguments for The Sustainability of Organic Palm Oil:

Environmentally friendly:

Organic palm oil is grown without the use of harmful pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers, reducing the negative impact on the environment.

Preserves biodiversity:

Organic palm oil farming helps to protect and conserve the surrounding ecosystems, preserving the habitat and diversity of wildlife.

Supports small-scale farmers:

Organic palm oil farming is often carried out by small-scale farmers, who use traditional and sustainable farming methods. This supports local communities and helps to reduce poverty.

Better for human health:

Organic palm oil is free from harmful chemical residues, making it a safer and healthier choice for consumers.

Long-term viability:

Organic palm oil farming is a sustainable practice that ensures long-term viability by maintaining soil health, preserving water resources, and promoting biodiversity.

Soil health improvement:

By avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers, organic palm oil production can help to maintain and improve soil health, which can increase long-term fertility and productivity.

Arguments against the sustainability of organic palm oil:

High costs:

Organic palm oil is often more expensive than conventional palm oil due to the costs of certification and increased labor requirements.

Limited production:

Organic palm oil production is limited, which makes it difficult to meet the increasing demand for the product.

Certification issues:

Some organic palm oil certifications may not be as rigorous as they claim, which can result in the use of non-organic farming practices that are not sustainable.

Land use conflicts:

The conversion of land for organic palm oil farming can lead to land use conflicts with indigenous communities and result in the loss of biodiversity and habitat for wildlife.

Market demand:

Despite growing demand for organic palm oil, it still represents a small fraction of the overall palm oil market, and its production may not be able to keep pace with demand.

Consumer Perspective and Choice

Though consumers are independent of buying and using what they want to buy and use, they also have to think about others as well as the environment.

Importance of consumer awareness and education

Importance of consumer awareness and education

Consumer awareness and education on organic palm oil are important because they can influence purchasing decisions and drive demand for sustainable and ethically produced palm oil. Consumer awareness and education related to organic palm oil are crucial for several reasons-

Health and Safety:

Organic palm oil is free of harmful chemicals, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). By educating consumers about the benefits of organic palm oil, they can make informed choices about the products they consume, ensuring their health and safety.

Environmental Sustainability:

The production of organic palm oil is environmentally friendly and sustainable. It avoids the use of harmful chemicals that can harm the environment, wildlife, and people. By educating consumers on the impact of organic palm oil production, they can make a positive impact on the environment.

Fair Trade:

Organic palm oil is produced in a way that supports the welfare of local communities, including workers and farmers. By promoting awareness and education about organic palm oil, consumers can help ensure that their purchases are supporting fair trade practices and ethical production methods.

Increased Demand:

As consumers become more aware of the benefits of organic palm oil, they are more likely to demand it in the marketplace. This increased demand will drive the market towards more sustainable and responsible production methods, making organic palm oil a more widely available and accessible option.

In conclusion, consumer awareness and education on organic palm oil are important to promote health and safety, environmental sustainability, fair trade practices, and increased demand. By making informed choices, consumers can play a significant role in promoting positive change in the industry.

Personal values and priorities in choosing palm oil products

Individuals may choose organic palm oil products based on a variety of personal values and priorities, including:

Personal values and priorities in choosing palm oil products


Many consumers choose organic palm oil products because they are believed to be healthier and free of harmful chemicals and pesticides.

Environmental Concerns:

Many people are concerned about the environmental impacts of palm oil production and choose organic products to support sustainable agriculture.

Ethical Sourcing:

Organic palm oil products are often sourced from small farmers and cooperatives, which supports fair trade and ethical labor practices.

Taste and quality:

Some consumers believe that organic products have a better taste and quality, and are willing to pay more for this difference.

Supporting local communities:

By choosing organic palm oil products, consumers can support local communities that depend on sustainable agriculture for their livelihoods.

Animal welfare:

Organic palm oil products are often produced without the use of animal testing or animal by-products, making them a more ethical choice for those concerned about animal welfare.

Long-term sustainability:

By choosing organic products, consumers can help to ensure the long-term sustainability of the environment and support environmentally-friendly practices.

These values and priorities can vary greatly from person to person, and it’s important to consider what matters most to the individual when deciding what products to purchase.

Availability and accessibility of organic palm oil products

The availability and accessibility of organic palm oil are not evenly distributed around the world. This can be due to the market and the farming patterns of the country.

Availability in the market:

In some areas, it may be widely available in grocery stores, supermarkets, and online retailers, while in other areas, it may only be available in specialty stores or online.

Farming pattern:

In countries where organic farming is more prevalent, such as Europe and North America, organic palm oil products are often more widely available. However, in countries where palm oil farming is commercial, such as Indonesia and Malaysia, organic palm oil products may be more difficult to find.

Overall, the availability and accessibility of organic palm products are increasing as consumers become more aware of the environmental and health concerns associated with conventional palm oil production. This has led to a growing demand for organic and sustainably sourced palm oil products, resulting in a wider range of options for consumers.

Evidence from Research and Studies

Some research and studies on the facts of organic palm oil production and usage have made us decide on this. Here are some of the key findings from studies and research on organic palm oil:

evidence from research and studies

Health Benefits:

Research has found that organic palm oil is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that are essential for good health.

Lower Cholesterol Levels:

A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that regular consumption of organic palm oil led to a significant decrease in total cholesterol levels and a significant increase in HDL cholesterol levels.

Better for the Environment:

Studies have shown that the production of organic palm oil can help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, preserve the soil and water quality, and maintain the biodiversity of the surrounding ecosystem.

Supports Local Economies:

Research has shown that the production and sale of organic palm oil can provide a source of income and employment opportunities for these communities, helping to support local economies.

Higher Nutrient Content:

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that organic palm oil contains higher levels of antioxidants, including tocotrienols, than traditional palm oil.


Organic palm oil is often considered to have a higher quality compared to conventional palm oil, as it is free from chemical residues and has a more intense flavor.

It’s important to note that while organic palm oil has many potential benefits, it is still important to consider the environmental impact of palm oil production, regardless of whether it is organic or not, as palm oil production can have significant environmental and social impacts.


1. Who does the certification for organic palm oil?

RSPO has developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to label their products Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

2. What is RSPO?

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established in 2004 with the objective of promoting the growth and use of sustainable palm oil products through global standards and multistakeholder governance.

3. What is Agroforestry?

Agroforestry is a collective name for land-use systems and technologies where woody perennials (trees, shrubs, palms, bamboo, etc.) are deliberately used on the same land-management units as agricultural crops and/or animals, in some form of spatial arrangement or temporal sequence.

Final Thoughts

The production of organic palm oil can still have negative environmental effects, such as deforestation and loss of biodiversity, although these may be less severe than in conventional palm oil production. Additionally, demand for organic palm oil may still contribute to the expansion of palm oil production and drive further destruction of habitats. It is important to consider the full life cycle of a product and seek out sustainably produced palm oil, regardless of whether it is labeled as “organic.”

✨ Next Attraction: Marjoram Essential Oil Substitute


Todd Smith is a trained ecologist with five years of experience in environmental conservation and sustainability. He has a deep passion for promoting sustainable practices and has developed a thorough understanding of the natural world and its complex interconnections.