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Indonesian Palm Oil Producers Told to Move to Sustainable Practices


A worker harvested oil palms at a plantation in Cimulang, Bogor, last year. (Antara Photo/Yulius Satria Wijaya)

Jakarta. Higher consumer demand for sustainable palm oil propels producers to pursue ecolabels, according to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil Production, or RSPO.

Palm oil production can be a double-edged sword, spurring economic growth while posing risks to the environment if not managed sustainably, RSPO’s global community outreach and engagement senior manager Imam A. El Marzuq said.

“Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Kadin) data showed the palm oil industry absorbed almost 21 million workers. Palm oil also has high yield efficiency compared to other [vegetable oil] products and is a versatile commodity used for food and non-food products, such as biofuel,” Imam told an online conference on Thursday.

Oil palm trees grow in tropical regions which can be home to many flora and fauna species. However, these species may be at risk of losing their habitat from deforestation and land conversion. But with ethical production, there is a room for palm oil plantation and environmental sustainability to co-exist, Imam said.

In 2011, RSPO rolled out an ecolabel, dubbed as the RSPO Trademark, which signals the use of RSPO-certified sustainable palm oil industry in a product. While producers are free to apply for RSPO’s seal of approval, some are still waiting around due to increasing demand.

A MarkPlus survey showed that 82 percent of their respondents are willing to switch to products that use sustainable palm oil whenever an option is available. However, they find it difficult to identify one due to the limited use of ecolabels.

“Because of this, consumers should urge producers to provide certified sustainable products. Companies will then more likely start to embrace sustainable business practices and work on an ecolabel to meet the consumer demand,” Imam said.

“But an ecolabel is only a tool of identification. It is the consumers that hold the key. At least by asking producers to provide ecolabels, there is a higher chance for a shift in consumption pattern and for stronger sustainability in the palm oil industry,” he added.

Likewise, supermarket chain Lion Super Indo considers consumers to play a vital role in promoting sustainability.

“Once eco-labeled products are available on the market, do start consuming them. If there is an increase in consumption, retailers will eventually stock up more sustainable products,” Lion Super Indo’s corporate affairs and sustainability head Yuvlinda Susanta said.

Lion Super Indo is also planning to launch a line of eco-labeled cooking oil to support sustainable consumption.


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