Unsustainable practices in industry, particularly agribusiness, represent the largest drivers of habitat loss and biodiversity decline, while the lack of corporate transparency and accountability hinders progress towards sustainable environmental and social best practice.

Our vision is that environmental and social best practice becomes business-as-usual in industries that currently pose the greatest threats to biodiversity. Companies must be held accountable by reporting transparently on the implementation of best practice.

The Sustainable Palm Oil Transparency Toolkit (SPOTT) is a project from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) providing information and resources to stakeholders in the palm oil industry, in order to reduce its negative impacts.

African oil palm fresh fruit bunch © New Britain Palm Oil

African oil palm fresh fruit bunch © New Britain Palm Oil

Palm oil is the world’s most widely used vegetable oil, and global consumption is increasing. Found in food, cosmetics, detergents and biodiesel, palm oil is extracted from the fruit of the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis), though over 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Southeast Asia.

As a conservation charity, ZSL focuses much of its work in Indonesia, where unsustainable production of palm oil and other commodities is a key driver of tropical deforestation and peatland destruction. Fires often started to clear land for oil palm plantations release greenhouse gas emissions contributing to global climate change.

Sustainable palm oil production minimises these negative impacts and others, such as toxic pollution and human rights abuses, through certification and increased transparency. Companies must identify and protect conservation areas, ensure fair treatment of workers, and adhere to many other important criteria, in order to claim they are sustainable.

SPOTT assesses 50 of the world’s largest palm oil producing companies against over 50 indicators using publicly available information on disclosure of their operations and their commitments to environmental and social best practice.

ZSL’s Business and Biodiversity Programme selected the 50 companies based on market capitalization, landbank hectarage, and stakeholder nominations by SPOTT users, who can use the company assessments to inform how they buy from, engage with, or invest in palm oil producers. Consult our frequently asked questions (FAQs) for more detail.

The African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis)

The African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis)

SPOTT is also part of a major new landscape management project in South Sumatra, KELOLA Sendang. This public-private-people partnership aims to address the challenges of deforestation, peatland degradation, wildfires and their associated climate impacts within the context of green growth and biodiversity conservation.

SPOTT’s role is to promote green growth and implementation of best practice. By informing and facilitating fact-based dialogue between oil palm, forestry and other companies and their financiers and buyers, SPOTT can support delivery of corporate sustainability commitments in the South Sumatran landscape, and explore the delivery of a jurisdictional approach, which can be adapted to work in other locations and contexts.



Explore our interactive mapping tool for a satellite view of deforestation and fires in and around concession sites of companies featured on the SPOTT scorecard. These data can support SPOTT users in conducting further research to verify whether or not company commitments are being implemented on the ground.

Use the map search bar to find specific company concessions or locations. Click the concession sites marked by pins to zoom in for more information, then go to the company pages of featured concessions to view their assessments. For more on how to use the SPOTT map, please visit our FAQs page.




Founded in 1826, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) is an international scientific, conservation and educational charity whose mission is to promote and achieve the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. Our mission is realised through our ground breaking science, our active conservation projects in more than 50 countries and our two Zoos, ZSL London Zoo and ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.

ZSL first started working with the palm oil industry in 2001, advising companies on how to manage populations of Sumatran tigers found in their concession sites – the areas where producers are allowed to operate.

Over 15 years later, ZSL’s Indonesia Conservation Programme has expanded to work on tiger habitat conservation, anti-poaching patrols and ecological surveys using the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART), and community engagement to improve the livelihoods of local people.

ZSL is also an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), serving on its Board of Governors, as well as submitting and supporting resolutions to enhance its Principles and Criteria, including the Annual Communications of Progress (ACOP) reporting process.

ZSL-supported field research has shown that less than 16% of animal species recorded in primary forests are found in conventional oil palm plantations. Another recent ZSL study demonstrated that consumers are willing to pay a premium for sustainable palm oil, and that raising demand is vital to maintain productivity while protecting biodiversity.

For more information, visit www.zsl.org/conservation. Follow ZSL on Twitter: @zslconservation, @zslscience, and @zslspott.