Palm oil comes from the fruits of the African oil palm tree and is an ingredient in half of all packaged snack foods and many other products such as toothpaste and shampoo. As an industrial crop, it has continued increasing in demand and expanded to take over nearly 40% of all vegetable oil production worldwide. The overview takes a look at palm oil production from seedling to plantation to palm oil mills and further down the market to your supermarket shelves. This chapter ends by taking a brief look into the sustainability of the palm oil industry. So what does sustainable palm oil production even mean? I take a look into the history of the sustainability concept and follow up by building a theoretical framework on the three pillars of sustainability and sustainable development: environmental, economic, and social. I performed meta analyses on five case studies in order to assess the current and potential future directions of sustainability for each of these three pillars. What I found was that the palm oil industry does show signs of potential to become much more sustainable. My data shows that it is not the oil palm tree itself that is unsustainable, but rather the organizational cultures, plantation operations, and widespread lack of compliance that has resulted in little to no sustainability efforts. A few attempts are being made to come up with a sustainable alternative ingredient to palm oil. However, the oil palm actually produces yields higher than any other vegetable oil in the market. Due to the continually growing and massive expansion of the palm oil industry over the last few decades, there are a number of different ways that the palm oil industry can be made much more sustainable if the proper steps are taken.


Mariola, Matt


Environmental Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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