This week, grocery stores in Indonesia introduced the first palm oil to be certified in the country as sustainably grown. The cooking oil was launched at Carrefour, one of the world’s largest international retailers, and certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

Carrefour’s ECOPlanet cooking oil is made only from oil palms grown in Indonesia. The RSPO certification covers a range of issues: protecting rare or endangered species like orangutans, preserving water quality, reducing pollution and waste, and respecting indigenous rights, among other factors.

Palm plantations have posed serious environmental and social challenges in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer of palm oil. Though laws on the books are intended to protect against deforestation, some companies have tried to break the rules. One major corporation is now accused of illegally clearing tens of thousands of acres of protected rainforest. For the Sumatran tiger and the orangutan, palm oil production could ultimately lead to extinction. Deforestation also has serious impacts on climate change.

With increasing consumer pressure to protect rainforests, several corporations began working on the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2004. By 2009, the group had developed a system for certifying palm oil production, and by 2011, over 1 million hectares of production area had been certified around the world.

Several U.S. companies, including Cargill, Colgate-Palmolive and Seventh Generation, are members of the RSPO and have made commitments to source certified palm oil. Unilever has announced that it will reach its target of sourcing 100 percent certified palm oil by the end of this year — three years ahead of schedule.

Main photo credit: a_rabin/Flickr