Palm oil plantations and deforestation in Guatemala: Certifying products as 'sustainable' is no panacea

Published: 27 July 2023

Palm oil, which can be found in roughly half of all packaged supermarket products, is notorious for causing deforestation and biodiversity loss. Efforts to curtail the damage have largely focused on voluntary environmental certification programs that label qualifying palm-oil sources as "sustainable."

However, a new University of Michigan-led study assessing the impact of one such certification program in Guatemala, found no evidence to suggest that certification effectively protects against deforestation or ecological damage. Certified palm oil plantations and mills contribute to deforestation in the country, including in biodiversity hotspots and protected regions. The authors, including McGill Adjunct Professor Benjamin Goldstein, recommend reforms to certification program policies and practices, better corporate tracking of supply chains, and the strengthening of forest governance in Guatemala.

Read more about the methods and results of this work.

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