LCA of Certified Palm Oil

This project aims to develop a complete life cycle assessment (LCA) of the environmental profile of certified sustainable palm oil compared to conventional palm oil.

The client

Crowdfunded project

Our role

2.-0 LCA consultants have started this initiative. The project is promoted and endorsed by Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) – but carried out independently of RSPO.

Certified palm oil: what are the life-cycle benefits?

The problem

Consumers are increasingly demanding products containing palm oil produced without harm to the environment. The industry response to this challenge has been the creation of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and the development of a certification system establishing a set of environmental criteria to ensure sustainable palm oil production. The key to achieve certification is therefore compliance with a pre-defined checklist. Currently, RSPO-certified oil palms cover an area of 2.7 million hectares, 19% of the global production. But what does RSPO certification mean from a life cycle perspective? How are the environmental performances of RSPO certified sustainable palm oil compared to non-certified palm oil?

The solution

Become a partner of this project and contribute to the development of a complete life cycle assessment (LCA) study comparing certified sustainable palm oil to non-certified palm oil. The main features of the study are:

  • A complete cradle-to-gate LCA study, including the following life cycle stages: oil palm plantation, palm oil mill and refinery. We have collected primary data for 634 RSPO-certified estates and 165 RSPO-certified palm oil mills accounting for more than 50% of all certified estates and oil mills.
  • Complying with ISO standards and subject to critical review.
  • Covering a wide set of environmental impact categories.
  • Using both consequential and attributional life cycle inventory (LCI) modelling.
  • Addressing both direct and indirect land use changes.

Why this is needed

  • For certified producers to show, with a quantitative approach, the sustainability advantage of RSPO-certified palm oil over non-certified palm oil.
  • For consumer goods companies to be able to claim environmental impact reductions derived from their sustainable procurement policies.
  • For environmental footprinting of products containing certified sustainable palm oil.


  • A comprehensive study report.
  • An article submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal.
  • Life Cycle Inventories (LCIs) of certified and non-certified palm oil in a format for import into LCA software.



The project was launched at beginning of 2017. The draft LCA report of the project is expected to be ready for critical panel review by July 2018. After that the project will be expanded with more spatial detail (more countries), more types of producers (estates versus smallholders) etc. Expansion of the scope is decided by members.

Current members

For subscription (or questions), please contact us. To go to the club click here.