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Sustainable palm oil protects wildlife

1 March 2014 - 30 April 2015

Awarded to: Professor  Ian J. Bateman


Research partners: Emma Coombes, Emily Fitzherbert, Amy Binner, Tomas Badura, Chris Carbone, Brendan Fisher, Robin Naidoo and Andrew Watkinson. Collaborating orgs: Department of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regent's Park, London NW1 4RY, United Kingdom.

Sponsor(s): ESRC and NERC

Project webpage(s)

Sustainable palm oil protects wildlife

About the project

Higher supermarket prices for eco-friendly palm oil could help save endangered species, say researchers in the paper 'Conserving tropical biodiversity via market forces and spatial targeting', published in the journal PNAS on 16 June 2015.

Read the full paper on the PNAS website.

Palm oil is used by the food industry as a cheap substitute for butter. But the conversion of tropical forests to oil palm plantations has had a devastating impact on a huge number of plant and animal species including tigers, elephants, rhinos and orang-utans.

The research reveals that a willingness among consumers to pay more for sustainably-grown palm oil would incentivise producers to engage with conservation projects.

Lead researcher Professor Ian Bateman, said:

“International governments have failed to stem the environmental damage caused by oil palm plantations. We wanted to find a new way of halting biodiversity loss that actually becomes profitable for private companies.”

“Consumers’ willingness to pay for sustainably grown palm oil has the potential to incentivise private producers enough to engage in conservation activities. This would support vulnerable ‘Red List’ species.

“Combining all of these findings together allows us to harness the power of the market and identify locations where cost-effective and even profitable conservation can take place.

“Our research shows the importance of incentivising individual landowners. Importantly, this strategy does not require government intervention or international agreements and avoids the problem of corruption.”