In Southeast Asia, expansion of oil-palm agriculture, in combination with other industries (logging, fiber, and mega-dams), is transforming significant portions of the landscape threatening biodiversity, key ecosystem services, and human cultural diversity. While transformative answers to these multifaceted environmental issues seem daunting, the conservation biology literature provides a road map for effective techniques to mitigate environmental degradation while allowing for thoughtful, well-planned economic growth. I suggest that the lack of strict operational definitions and a holistic approach to sustainability are the two most critical factors hindering development of sustainable oil-palm agriculture. The task for environmental practitioners is to succinctly define quantifiable long-term sustainability practices and persuade governments and industries that it is in their best interest not to dismiss environmental concerns. If adopted, oil-palm and other industries in SE Asia could become a sustainable model for the world by preserving diverse biological and human communities while expanding economic interests.