More than 50 organisations in the city have revolutionised their supply chains and committed to sourcing palm oil – a vegetable oil used in thousands of household products from food items to cleaning materials and cosmetics – from entirely sustainable sources.
Oil palm plantations are causing widespread habitat destruction in South East Asian rainforests, pushing iconic species such as orangutans and tigers to the edge of extinction.
But now, an unprecedented collaboration of businesses, restaurants, schools and manufacturers from across the city of Chester have united to help tackle the crisis.
The organisations involved have removed unsustainable products from their supply chains, switching to sustainable alternatives and have made time-bound pledges to use only 100% sustainable palm oil products.
Conservationists believe Chester’s achievement in becoming the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City is a significant step towards preventing further rainforest destruction in tropical regions.
Oil palm plantations cause major habitat destruction
Cat Barton, Field Programmes Manager at Chester Zoo, said:
“This is a major moment in the fight to save orangutans and other wildlife from extinction.”
“A vast array of species are under threat and on the brink of being lost forever, because oil palm plantations are wiping out rainforests to produce the food and household items we all consume every day. But it is not too late. By embracing a more sustainable future, we can stop this crisis.”
“The fact that more than 50 organisations in one city alone have made changes to the products they use – and committed to a 100% sustainable future – shows that the tide is turning.”
“We are already seeing the wider impact of the campaign. More cities are now engaging in talks to follow this model and major large companies nationwide are working with us to make the switch to sustainable palm oil.”
“Thank you to each and every individual or organisation who has taken action to make Chester the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City. Together, we can prevent extinction.”
Conservationists have long advocated that fully sustainable palm oil is the only viable solution to the extinction crisis. If consumers and organisations were to stop using palm oil, an alternative supply would need to be found for the global demand for edible vegetable oils. Because other oil crops – such as coconuts, soya, olives, sunflowers and maize – are less productive per square kilometre, even more land would need to be converted to agriculture.
Chris Matheson, MP for the City of Chester, said:
“I am so pleased to have supported this project since the start. I know how much work the zoo has put into achieving their ambition of creating the first Sustainable Palm Oil City in the world, and I am really excited about the future of this campaign. I look forward to hearing about other cities in the UK and across the world joining the movement that Chester Zoo has started.”
“This is fabulous news for the zoo, fabulous news for Chester and fabulous news for the planet.”
Conservationists from Chester Zoo developed the Sustainable Palm Oil City model based on the framework created by the Sustainable Fish Cities project, led by independent group Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming. The campaign is backed by the Orangutan Land Trust and the Sumatran Orangutan Society, endorsed by key conservation organisations such as the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA).
The initiative has been supported by a host of industry advisors such as the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, as well as palm oil sustainability consultants Murdoch Associates and Efeca.
Edsential, who provide services such as catering to the education sector, have enrolled 138 primary schools and six secondary schools across the region into the scheme, including many schools who have engaged directly with Chester Zoo’s conservation outreach education programmes. Edsential’s action ensures the palm oil sustainability of more than 5.5million school meals per year.
Jason Ellison, owner of Chez Jules restaurant, the first business in the city to commit to the Sustainable Palm Oil City scheme, said:
“I visited Malaysia and Borneo in 2008 and I was appalled to see the acrid smoke that lingered over Kuala Lumpur and then realised in Borneo, that it was all from rainforests being burnt and decimated for palm oil plantations. This was my very first experience first-hand of the effects of palm oil.”
“When the zoo approached me in 2014 to see if I would like to work alongside them to try and raise awareness about palm oil and the need for sustainability within restaurants and the city, I jumped at the chance. The whole team at the zoo have worked tirelessly from our first embryonic meetings until now, achieving the goal of Chester becoming the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City, which is absolutely fantastic and I am very proud of everyone involved who has signed up to this great cause. Long may awareness continue to grow as more restaurants, suppliers and consumers all realise they really can make a difference.”
Ian McGrady, Managing Director of Edsential Community Interest Company, said:
“Chester Zoo inspired us and our schools with their campaign. We are in the privileged position of feeding most of Chester’s primary school children every day and we felt that we could make a real contribution to this project. Our children, parents and schools want to do something practical to help with rainforest conservation; the Sustainable Palm Oil City project has allowed us to support them to do just that.”
“The project has inspired us to go much further and we are in the process of becoming fully certified by the RSPO, so the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City will soon have the world’s first certified fully sustainable school catering provider.”
“The University of Chester’s support for the campaign means that education institutions in the region are supporting the campaign at all age levels.”
Ian White, Domestic Bursar and Executive Director of Hospitality and Residential Services at the University of Chester, said:
“This is excellent news. The University and Chester Zoo have a long history of working together, and we were more than happy to work with them on such a fantastic, globally-important project, and to have contributed towards becoming the first Sustainable Palm Oil City.”
“As a Sustainable Palm Oil City Champion, the University’s Hospitality and Residential Services Department has worked closely with our suppliers, to ensure that every product sold across our catering outlets that contains palm oil comes from a sustainable source.”
Chester’s major arts venue Storyhouse is one of the visitor attractions to have thrown its support behind the campaign, transforming its food provision to deliver a 100% sustainable supply chain, from the food in their restaurants to the ice cream in their theatres.
Andrew Bentley, CEO of Storyhouse, said:
“We want to collaborate with Chester Zoo on this vital project, not only as a restaurant, but as a creative centre for the community. It’s incredible that the city is leading the way to pioneer such an important campaign. This is absolutely a city-wide team effort and we are proud to be part of it.”
Chester’s Sustainable Palm Oil Champions can be found here.
Watch the story of Chester’s journey to becoming the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City on BBC One’s Inside Out North West here.