University becomes a Chester Zoo Sustainable Palm Oil City Champion

Posted on 7th August 2018

Chester is one step nearer to becoming the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City, with thanks to the efforts of one of the largest organisations in the area.

Cat Barton, Field Programmes Manager at Chester Zoo and Ian White, Domestic Bursar of Hospitality and Residential Services.
Cat Barton, Field Programmes Manager at Chester Zoo and Ian White, Domestic Bursar of Hospitality and Residential Services.

The University of Chester has been given Sustainable Palm Oil City Champion status by Chester Zoo, as part of its campaign to create a demand in the UK for sustainable palm oil.

The University’s Catering team has worked closely with its suppliers, to ensure that every product sold across the institution’s catering outlets containing palm oil comes from a sustainable source.

Over the past few decades, habitat loss and conversion of forests for unsustainable agricultural use in Borneo and Sumatra have put numerous species at risk and conservation efforts are vitally important to protect these islands’ biodiversity.

Palm oil is highly profitable, and as the most high yielding and versatile product on the market the demand is increasing. Chester Zoo is working with a number of conservation organisations to engage with stakeholders across the globe, to find solutions to this conservation problem, continue to influence many sectors in the palm oil supply chain and promote the use of sustainable palm oil.

The University team including Ian White, Domestic Bursar of Hospitality and Residential Services; Paula Martindale, Senior Catering Operations Manager; Les Barnes, Head Chef and Tammy Hunt, Sustainability Officer, worked together to make the changes.

Going through all the food they buy, the group quickly discovered that palm oil was a hidden ingredient in many products and that external suppliers could not always trace its source, when asked.

The University has its own baker and the recipes have been changed to make sure that everything is created with sustainable palm oil.

Ian said: “It was very difficult to trace the source of palm oil in pre-packaged foods. When we first talked to our suppliers, they were uncertain, but they have all now got involved and support it. They understand that if the University is going through this process, others will follow.”

Les added: “We found that it was in things that we never expected – like breaded chicken! We’ve now changed our supplier for that particular product.”

For Paula, the project has extra meaning, as her son is currently studying the effects of deforestation and how it impacts orangutans for his PhD. He frequently visits the Sumatran rainforest, to work on sustainability projects. Paula said he has witnessed how forests are disappearing first hand. She added: “In the between time of six months between two visits he said that the forest he travelled through for three hours in a car to his destination had completely disappeared.”

The University and the Zoo have a long history of working together. Tammy said: “It was natural for us to pursue this accreditation. We have our own Green Chester initiative and invited Chester Zoo to talk to staff and students about its palm oil project earlier this year.”

The University’s Catering outlets are already committed to the MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) Sustainable Seafood scheme and use meat, dairy and eggs from local sources with high welfare standards. They also have vegetarian and vegan food bars.

Ian said he was very pleased that the University was able to support the project. He added: “It’s great to link in with the Zoo and as a major player in the city we’re really proud to be able to move this scheme forward. It needs major stakeholders to push for this change and then manufacturers will change their product lines.”

Cat Barton, Field Programmes Manager at Chester Zoo, said: “To have the University of Chester as such a committed, enthusiastic member of the campaign to create the world’s first Sustainable Palm Oil City is a major step forwards in the fight to prevent extinction. Unsustainable oil palm plantations are pushing wildlife to the brink, from tigers to orangutans, but this is a problem we can all help to solve. It is vital that we increase awareness and demand for sustainable palm oil - and Chester is leading the way.”