As most of the country and the rest of the world are under some sort of lockdown, we’re all facing disruptions and restrictions to our daily lives, not to mention the unprecedented changes that we will face as a society in the future.
We’re already seeing economic disruption and job losses in the region and the near future looks bleak with Indonesia expecting up to 9 million people will fall into poverty and unemployment due to the pandemic. We don’t know how long it will take for things to go back to the way they used to be but as we brace for the new normal and discover what that entails, we must not disregard the progress that we’ve made within the palm oil industry and press ahead with our goal to achieve sustainable palm oil.
Few industries in Indonesia have shown as strong growth as the palm oil industry in the past 20 years, contributing between 1.5 and 2.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. The industry also employs 8.4 million people nationwide, from farmers and mill workers to service goods suppliers. With the pandemic expected to slow down the economy and cause key sectors like tourism, F&B and retail to lose billions of dollars, the Indonesian government is expected to rely heavily on agriculture and commodities like palm oil to rebuild the economy.
As the impact of COVID-19 continues to reverberate globally, we should take the time to consider how we can push forward with the important work of making the palm oil sector sustainable and resilient.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is a global multi-stakeholder organization for the certification of sustainable palm oil, and we are continuing the work to achieve our vision of making sustainable palm oil the norm, despite difficulties in carrying out certification and audits of plantations in the current circumstances. Pushing on with this work is critical to ensure that standards for sustainable palm oil are upheld – for smallholder farmers who depend on sustainable palm oil for their livelihood, as well as consumers who rely on our certification to make the right choices.
While we work toward navigating this new normal, there are some ways we can start to become a more educated consumer or a desktop-based (for now) sustainable palm oil “activist”.
Palm oil can be sustainable, but we all have an important role to play to ensure that it becomes the norm. You can start by learning more about the problems, supporting brands that have pledged to become sustainable, or pressure your favorite brands into making a change.
Our hope for the future is that organizations like RSPO would no longer be needed because commodity producers will inherently do the right thing, governments will have the best possible laws in place to protect workers and companies will provide premium compensation to support smallholders.
Director Indonesia for Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.