Co-op – A retailer restores orangutan habitat

The Co-operative Group UK has been sourcing 100% RSPO certified sustainable palm oil for their own-brand products since 2014. Knowing that this was not enough to transform the sector, Co-op has moved beyond certification to scale its impact. Besides engaging in initiatives like the Retailers’ Palm Oil Group and the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition, Co-op supports a forest restoration project in Borneo in partnership with Chester Zoo. This includes tree planting and the creation of wildlife corridors, which has led to the return of orangutans and clouded leopards.

100% RSPO certified palm oil

The Co-operative Group UK (Co-op) is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives owned by over 4.3 million members, and the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer owning more than 2,500 stores. Co-op is seen as a pioneer in fair trading and environmental protection targets. Since 2014 they have sourced 100% RSPO certified palm oil, and currently are working towards using 100% segregated RSPO certified palm oil in all own-brand products.


Beyond certification

As a cooperative, an important part of their philosophy is to bring benefits back into their communities. This also applies to producing regions. Going beyond certification, Co-op has invested in restoration projects in palm oil sourcing areas by supporting a reforestation and biodiversity conservation programme in partnership with Chester Zoo. This project is run jointly with local communities.


Restoration programme in Borneo

With Chester Zoo and the NGO HUTAN, Co-op supports a conservation project in Sabah, Borneo as part of their Future of Food Strategy. In 2019, a team of conservation experts that worked alongside local communities planted more than 30,000 trees (of which 5,000 were funded by Co-op) of 29 different native species. Trees were selected from neighbouring tree species, which are fast growing and provide an ideal wildlife habitat.


Returning wildlife

The aim was to create a wildlife corridor and to combat the effects of deforestation and fragmentation in an area previously used for unsustainable palm oil production. A year later in 2020, trees started reaching three metres in height and camera traps showed wildlife returning to the area, including orangutans and clouded leopards. The project is used to teach local schools about reforestation and how to take care of these new plants providing children with educational lessons on how to look after the environment, forests and wildlife.

Ou Forest2

Looking ahead

In 2020 Co-op committed to their third year of collaboration with Chester Zoo on the restoration project, aiming to support the planting of 50,000 trees by the end of 2025. For the coming five years, Co-op will also look for opportunities to increase more direct smallholder support, engagement with brands, expanding transparency and understanding the use of palm oil in animal feed.


Learn more:

Co-op is not only active on sustainable palm oil. Find out more about what they do to contribute to sustainability here.

Awareness Event For Genting Plantation Workers’ Children