Demand for Palm Oil Causes Destruction of Rainforests

Recently, Greenpeace released a report claiming that Procter & Gamble is involved with the destruction of Indonesian rainforests in their pursuit of palm oil. Found in many household products, palm oil is increasing in demand and companies are looking to South East Asia to supply it. This substance is found in many household products like shampoo, margarine, cream cheese, and oven chips. More and more, palm oil is also being incorporated into cosmetics and even biodiesel. Ironically, as the biodiesel industry grows and the demand for palm oil grows, so do the number of plantations and hectares of land cleared to obtain it.

Indonesian rainforests are at risk or have already been cleared to make way for palm oil plantations, destroying habitats and disrupting wildlife. Already, Indonesia has 6 million hectares of plantations—one hectare equals approximately 2.47 acres—with plans for another 4 million hectares by 2015 dedicated to biodiesel production. This destruction isn’t isolated to Indonesia, although it is likely the country where the damage is most severe and has the fastest deforestation rate.

It is with these lost and/or soon to be lost rainforests in mind that Greenpeace has accused the consumer goods giant P&G for being responsible for this destruction. Not only are they pointing a finger at them for the destruction of the forest, but also for forest fires, the orangutan ‘graveyard’ and an increase of greenhouse gases that result from burning peat lands. These peat lands, as well as the rainforests, are home to some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems as well as threatened or critically endangered species like the Sumatran orangutans and tigers.

In an interview, Greenpeace’s Indonesian forest campaign head, Bustar Maitar, said, “The maker of Head & Shoulders needs to stop bringing rainforest destruction into our showers.” P&G is not the first big company that Greenpeace has targeted. In the past, they have conducted campaigns that have resulted in commercial bigwigs like Nestle, Unilever and L’Oreal to commit to following zero deforestation policies.

It this latest campaign, Greenpeace has pointed the green finger and linked a Malaysian palm oil supplier to P&G. They claim that the company’s demand for palm oil and dealings with the Malaysian company is directly connected to forest fires on Indonesia’s island of Sumatra as recently as June 2013. The results of this report and campaign remain to be seen.


To learn more about the palm oil industry and its effects on Indonesia’s tropical rainforests, visit:


(Image: The last batch of sawnwood from the peat forest in Indragiri Hulu, Riau Province, Indonesia. Deforestation for oil palm plantation. Source: Flickr user WakxWikimedia Commons)


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-Written by Inés de Sequera