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Over the past few decades, habitat loss and conversion of forests for unsustainable agricultural use in Borneo and Sumatra have put numerous species at risk and conservation efforts are vitally important to protect these islands’ biodiversity.

Palm oil is highly profitable, and as the most high yielding and versatile product on the market the demand is increasing. Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil that comes from the fruit of oil palm trees. It’s cheap and efficient making it the world’s most widely used vegetable oil. It is used in the production of foods such as cake, chocolate, biscuits, margarine and frying fats, but also can be found in cosmetics, soap, shampoo and cleaning products.  

Chester Zoo is working with a number of conservation organisations to engage with stakeholders across the globe to find solutions to this conservation problem, continue to influence many sectors in the palm oil supply chain and promote the use of sustainable palm oil. Chester Zoo launched its campaign to make Chester the first Sustainable Palm Oil City in the World in October 2017.

The University of Chester was awarded Sustainable Palm Oil City champion status by Chester Zoo, as part of its campaign to create a demand for sustainable palm oil in August 2018. In March 2019 Chester Zoo announced that Chester had become the first Sustainable Palm Oil City in the world.

The University’s catering team worked closely with its suppliers, to ensure that every product sold across the institution’s catering outlets containing palm oil comes from a sustainable source.

The Catering team reviewed the ingredients list of all the food they buy for the University. They soon discovered that palm oil was a hidden ingredient in many products and external suppliers could not always trace its source, when asked. It was very difficult to trace the source of palm oil in pre-packaged foods. When we first talked to our suppliers, they were uncertain, but they have all now got involved and support it. They understand that if the University is going through this process, others will follow.

Our commitment to the palm oil project and our champion status within that, have helped to raise the profile of sustainable palm oil in the higher education sector, including the University’s interaction with The University Caterers Organisation (TUCO). The Catering team were awarded the Sustainability Award at the annual TUCO Awards 2019 they have also been shortlisted in the 2019 Green Gown Awards in the Campus Health, Food and Drink category.

If you want to find out more about palm oil, the products it’s used in and which contain sustainable palm oil, explore the resources from Chester Zoo including the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping List.