Palm oil, land robbery and deforestation. One million hectares escape RSPO records, reports the ‘Zoological Society of London’


Palm oil production, as everyone knows, is still the leading cause of land robbery and deforestation of the planet’s green lungs at the Equator line. Southeast Asian palmocrats, and their Big Food partners, continue to tell the fairy tale of self-certified environmental sustainability through the screen of RSPO. (1) But the numbers do not add up.

The complaint comes from the Zoological Society of London, ZSL, which took pains to compare data offered by RSPO members with that coming from other sources. The report‘Hidden Lands, Hidden Risks?”(2) shows the serious shortcomings of palmocrats’ public statements about the plantations they manage. Deficiencies that often mask violations of the rights of local communities, (3) animals and the environment.

ZSL verified the claims of the 50 leaders in palm production, 39 of which are RSPO certified. Out of 8.6 million hectares of plantations considered, (4) one million escapes the charters. The‘Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit‘ (SPOTT) adopted by the London zoologists thus exposed, once again, the serious irregularities of most RSPO members.

Nestlé shed crocodile tears in the same days after the discovery that its supplier Wilmar’s palm (5) came from freshly burned forests. Against all rules, including the moratorium Indonesia had to impose to save the population from suffocating fire smoke. (6) In 2016 alone, 2.6 million Indonesian forests were burned, an area equal to the size of Sicily.

Fires blaze more than greenwashing in short. Indonesia emits more greenhouse gases in three weeks than Germany does in a year. And it is Nestlé itself-between the lines of pompous proclamations about its asserted social responsibility-which acknowledges that it does not know from which plantations 87 percent of the palm used comes. (7)


(1) Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil production.


(3) We refer, in particular, to violations of basic human rights perpetrated through land robbery, so-called land grabbing
(4) Oil palm crops are considered to occupy a total of about 28 million hectares

(5) The Wilmar Group is already known in the news for the Amnesty report that documented slavery and child labor in November 2016. See https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade .it/la-grande-bugia-dellolio-di-palma-sostenibile-il-rapporto-di-amnesty-international-inchioda-big-food/

(6) Fires prodromal to oil palm cultivation are still the leading cause of atmospheric CO2 emissions in Southeast Asia

(7) See the article published by The Economist, at


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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.