Written by Tom Martin

Iceland’s recent advert on its palm oil ban (and the subsequent ‘ban’ on the advert itself) has proven wildly successful, having now been seen by millions of people around the world. It has also provoked strong debate within the conservation community. On the one hand, it has drawn enormous attention to the plight of Borneo’s forests and the charismatic wildlife it supports. It has also encouraged people to be more environmentally conscious about where products they use are sourced – a fantastic outcome. On the other hand, and on the issue of palm oil specifically, many conservationists feel that banning this product outright is not an effective solution for preventing deforestation in South-east Asia, or protecting the Orangutans that live within those forests. Palm oil, despite the problems it causes, is a highly efficient crop, and removing it from the global supply chain may just lead to less efficient oil-producing crops being grown in its stead which require more land (and hence drive more deforestation) than palm oil. Banning palm oil outright also undermines the sustainable, environmentally-certified palm oil industry which is beginning to emerge (and discourages current unsustainable producers to switch to a sustainable model to ensure access to western markets), and also does nothing to prevent other forms of deforestation within Orangutan habitats which can be even more destructive than palm oil, such as clearance for cattle ranching.  You can read a summary of these controversies in this article written by conservation scientists at DICE here: https://www.wired.co.uk/article/iceland-advert-banned-christmas and also read about WWFs stance on palm oil here https://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/final_wwf_position_on_iceland_po_boycott.pdf

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