History of palm oil

100 years of palm oil



Industry expansion and community resistance since the early 1900s.




Indonesian government aims to almost double palm oil production by 2020.



A diverse alliance of international human rights and environmental organisations release guidance for ‘Free and Fair Labor in Palm Oil Production’.

CSPO now covers 12.5 million hectares (20% of global palm oil production).



After almost 15 years of campaigning, EU legislation comes into effect requiring labelling of palm oil in food products in Europe.

Traidcraft begins using fair trade palm oil in its biscuits and cleaning products.

Over 20 global food companies commit to deforestation-free palm oil sourcing policies at the UN Climate Summit.



Hundreds of palm oil workers and allies crash the 11th annual RSPO meeting in Indonesia to demand it stops certifying worker exploitation.

A declaration of support for communities affected by the expansion of oil palm plantations in Africa is signed by representatives of international NGOs and La Via Campesina.

Rainforest Action Network (RAN) releases its Conflict Palm Oil report, targeting a ‘Snack Food 20’ list of companies including Heinz, Kellogg’s, Pepsi and Mars.

55 million tonnes of palm oil are consumed globally, nearly four times 1990 levels.



CSPO production reaches a million hectares, or 5 million tonnes (10% of global palm oil production).



Greenpeace launches a campaign on Nestlé’s palm oil practices, and boycott calls start appearing everywhere from Australia to the USA. Within 8 weeks Nestlé produces a ‘zero deforestation’ policy, and Greenpeace moves on to target investors HSBC.


World Bank suspends all funding for palm oil plantations for 18 months following damning findings over a 2007 complaint.

WWF releases first palm oil buyers’ scorecard.



First shipment of RSPO Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) arrives in Netherlands.

Around 200 groups sign an “International Declaration Against the ‘Greenwashing’ of palm oil by the RSPO” in response to its first Latin American meeting.



RSPO’s first Principles and Criteria (P&Cs) are drawn up.

New acreage given over to oil-palm cultivation quadrupled between 1961 and 2007, when it reached 154,000 square kilometres.

A complaint is filed with the World Bank against palm oil trader Wilmar for multiple human rights and environmental abuses, showing that the World Bank was in violation of its own standards for providing loans to the company.



The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is formally established.



Palm oil exports from Indonesia increase about 27% per year from 2000-2009.

The Forest Trends group estimates that from 2000-2012, 80% of forest destruction in Indonesia was illegal, mostly for palm oil and timber.


The medical establishment deems trans fats heart-unhealthy and demand for palm oil soars.


Long-running community protests begin in West Sumatra and Riau in Indonesia to defend rights to land taken over by palm oil companies.


Production of palm oil in independent Indonesia increases thirtyfold after the government designates 70% of the country as state land, and starts leasing it to private companies despite it being home to millions of people.


Dutch and British colonial rulers and traders establish palm plantations in South East Asia.

Product Guides 

palm oil special report

Ethical Ratings of Biscuits, Ice Cream, Butter & Spreads

The Product Guides in this report share a common ingredient with an estimated 50% of supermarket products: palm oil.

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