Environmentally friendly and socially responsible palm oil production

Project description

Title: Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil (FONAP)
Commissioned by: Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
Country: Germany
Overall term: 2018 to 2021


Worldwide, nearly 68 million tonnes of palm oil were produced in 2017. That same year, palm oil consumption in Germany amounted to some 1.1 million tonnes. Owing to huge demand, the global oil palm planting area has risen more than tenfold since 1985. Today, oil palm plantations account for 17 million hectares of land worldwide – equivalent to roughly half the size of Germany. And there is no sign of an end to this growth: Indonesia alone is planning to extend its oil palm plantations to 20 million hectares by 2020.

Since oil palms grow exclusively in tropical climates, extensive areas of rainforest are being cleared to farm them. In 2019, slash-and-burn caused catastrophic forest fires that swathed large areas of Indonesia in smoke.
Oil palm farming must be environmentally friendly and socially responsible. People and biological diversity must be treated with respect in the countries where it is practised.

Biodiversity is also suffering: the clearing of rainforests is already threatening the survival of the orang-utan, the Sumatran tiger and the Javan rhinoceros, among numerous other animal species. In addition, oil palm cultivation frequently creates conflicts over land and land use between large companies and the local population.

To find a solution to these pressing problems and in response to global criticism of the practices deployed in oil palm cultivation, various sustainability standards have been developed in recent years to certify the production and use of sustainable palm oil, one being the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). RSPO certification verifies that the production of palm oil has been environmentally friendly and that human rights and fair pay have been respected.

The Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil (FONAP), funded by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), was founded in 2013. It sends out clear signals to producer countries and the public at large that German companies are assuming their responsibility in the global supply chains and seeking to improve social, economic and environmental conditions in oil palm growing countries.


The share of certified palm oil and palm kernel oil on the German market has been significantly increased. Together with other European initiatives, FONAP has set itself the goal of ensuring that only certified palm oil will be used in Europe by 2020.


FONAP is a multi-actor partnership made up of various stakeholders: companies, NGOs and policy-makers. It has 51 members. All the participants jointly define the challenges in their field of work and commit to using only sustainable palm oil.
This results in greater demand for sustainably produced, certified palm oil, which in turn leads to change in oil palm growing practices.
The FONAP member organisations are committed to using only certified palm oil, thereby sending out a clear signal to consumers, politicians and, above all, producer countries.


FONAP has had considerable success to date. It has significantly raised the share of sustainable palm oil on the German market. While in 2013 only one in three tonnes used in the food, chemicals, animal feed and detergent industries was sustainable, this had risen to 55 per cent by 2017.In the field of biofuels, such as the production of biodiesel, the use of sustainable palm oil is compulsory under EU law. Taking this into account, the average consumption of sustainable palm oil in Germany is 78 per cent.