First Faculty Advisor
Dan McNally, Ph.D.
Second Faculty Advisor
Qin Leng, Ph.D.
deforestation; palm oil; sustainability; life cycle analysis
In recent years, palm oil has gained international attention as an efficient, versatile, and inexpensive oil, and is now an ingredient in 50% of items in the grocery store. As a result, there has been an increase in complaints regarding the environmental impact stemming from the production of palm oil, including those of deforestation and harmful emissions. In response to these complaints, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was created to certify palm oil that meets certain criteria, (including being produced without an element of deforestation) as sustainable. Now, the RSPO certifies over 3.09 million hectares of palm oil production area. However, the RSPO is getting backlash over their standards, with reports that their standards are not strong enough to be considered sustainable. This research aims to address these complaints by determining the environmental sustainability of palm oil produced with and without an element of deforestation in Malaysia. A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) was used in this research, and the results of this LCA have indicated neither crude palm oil (CPO) associated to deforestation nor CPO not linked to deforestation is environmentally sustainable. Therefore, these results indicate the RSPO’s certified sustainable palm oil may not actually be sustainable, given the large environmental impact of both variations of palm oil.