Our very own Director of Science, Dr Simon Dowell, was invited to Brussels to advise politicians from across Europe on the best approach to tackling the world’s palm oil crisis.

We were asked to appear before the EU Natural Resources Commission to discuss embracing sustainable palm oil and halting deforestation, which has been long advocated as the best solution to the global issue. The Commission Simon presented to is a sub-committee of the European Committee of the Regions and is currently examining how the EU can best respond to the crisis surrounding unsustainable palm oil production.

Currently, unsustainable production of palm oil is wiping out huge areas of rainforest in order to provide the ingredients for food and household products consumed in the UK and around the world.

This is the first time that one of our experts have appeared before such a committee, following our sustainable palm oil challenge campaign, which saw Chester named the world’s first ‘Sustainable Palm Oil City’ earlier this year! The success of the campaign could now see it scaled up and applied across EU member states.


“We want to make sure that members of the Commission better understand the scale of the palm oil problem, deforestation and the catastrophic impact it’s having on wildlife”

Dr Simon Dowell, Chester Zoo Science Director

“Palm oil is the most widely consumed vegetable oil on the planet. It is used in around 50% of packaged supermarket products, including many manufactured and processed foods such as biscuits and chocolate bars, soaps and detergents, and in many cleaning products.

When compared to other vegetable oils, however, palm oil has some distinct advantages. It is very high yielding and so if we were to switch from producing vegetable oil from palm oil to other sources, we would need at least six times as much land to produce the same amount of oil. So banning palm oil is likely to be counterproductive. It would shift the issue elsewhere, creating even greater habitat loss and negative impact on biodiversity.

Palm oil is here to stay, and we do not think calls for an outright ban are the answer. We believe that part of the solution is embracing sustainable palm oil and halting deforestation.What we need to do is increase demand for sustainable palm oil – bringing individuals, communities and businesses on board.”

Sustainable Palm Oil City

Chester became the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City in 2019 with other UK cities, including Oxford and Newquay, now signed up to follow suit. The movement requires restaurants, schools, workplaces and attractions across each city to support sustainable palm oil, which conservationists proclaim is the best way to prevent habitat destruction for wildlife such as orangutans.

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.

Simon Dowell added,

“When the city of Chester came together to become the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City earlier this year, we knew it was just the start. The campaign in Chester has helped businesses to influence their suppliers to switch to sustainable ingredients. These changes have then been passed along the chain to other customers. It’s a snowball effect.


“Chester Zoo will continue to influence at political and industry levels and we plan to help the UK Government achieve its target of having a 100% sustainable supply chain for palm oil by the end of 2020.”

Dr Simon Dowell, Chester Zoo Science Director


If you’re interested in getting your town or city to become a Sustainable Palm Oil City, then find out more about how to get started…


NOW is the time to ACT FOR WILDLIFE. Conservation is CRITICAL; species are under threat. TOGETHER we can make a BIG difference. Take action TODAY and join us in PREVENTING EXTINCTION.