Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil Palm Research (SEnSOR)


The Socially and Environmentally Sustainable Oil palm Research (SEnSOR) programme is an integrated multi-disciplinary research programme designed to fill key knowledge gaps in testing and developing the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Principles and Criteria for sustainability in oil palm agriculture. The SEnSOR programme has been developed as a result of the identification of significant gaps in the understanding of how to test and improve RSPO's Principles and Criteria for sustainability. We need to determine whether they are currently fit for purpose to deliver sustainability and benefits to People, Planet and Profit, as expected by industry and consumers, and to examine how their effectiveness could be maximised.

Aims and objectives

The five year programme will deliver a robust scientific evidence base for RSPO’s Principles and Criteria, strengthening the credibility of RSPO’s approach to sustainability, and thus providing benefits for People, Planet and Profit by:

  1. Creating confidence in RSPO certified palm oil for users, investors and the public
  2. Ensuring that growers’ efforts and investments in sustainable practices are cost-effective and have market value
  3. Safe-guarding the environment and society for the long term through the rigorous testing and development of practices which deliver significant benefits

Findings and outcomes so far

The research has demonstrated that small, isolated patches of forest support fewer species and reduced tree recruitment. It is recommend that patches of forest set-aside have a core area of at least 200 ha to support about 60-70% of species found in an equivalent area of continuous rainforest, and are >20 ha so they support more species than in planted areas of oil palm. Patches of forest have the potential to enhance landscape connectivity, but forest restoration is required to ensure patches contain closed-canopy forest. Through the project the researchers have produced 16 Science-for-policy reports to-date e.g. The Potential for Oil Palm Landscapes to Support At-Risk Species; Potential Impacts of Climate Change on Oil Palm Cultivation. Reports are available to download from the official SEnSOR website.

Related links

To find out more please visit the project website 

Principal Investigator


  • Dr Colin McClean (Department of Environment and Geography, University of York)
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Oxford
  • Van Hall Larenstein University (Netherlands)
  • Wageningen University (Netherlands)
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Hawai’i (USA))

Related links

To find out more please visit the project website