'Dont allow IPOP to become global farce'

JAKARTA (foresthints.news) - Indonesia Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP) has generally come across as merely declarative, and supposing that the communication established by the parties promoting IPOP had been good from the outset, it would certainly not be mired in the controversies we are seeing today. This is indeed the case, as many questions and accusations get raised about IPOP, such as that it acts as a cartel in the palm oil business under the pretext of sustainability.

"Imagine if from the outset, there had been good communication and planning. Things like this would not be getting said about IPOP," Sarwono Kusumaatmadja, former Indonesian Minister of the Environment, told foresthints.news on Tuesday (Mar 1) in Jakarta.

Sarwono, one of the most respected figures in Indonesia who has served in a number of ministerial positions at various periods of time, feels that the current Indonesian Minister of the Environment and Forestry, Siti Nurbaya, has behaved constructively towards IPOP in that she has been willing to study in detail all its elements before eventually making any final decisions pertaining to it.

Minister Siti Nurbaya, he said, plays an important role in cleaning up problems associated with the supply chains of the palm oil industry in Indonesia, which is related to the implementation of IPOP, especially in terms of deforestation, tenure issues and smallholders.

"When it comes to companies that have signed up to IPOP, they need to have effective control of their own ranks. Thus, the rhetoric emanating from their headquarters needs to match what is being said and done by their field managers, Sarwono explained.

He also emphasized that the stakeholder relationship between IPOP signatories and smallholders needs to be settled on points of conflict.

"A transparent roadmap needs to be created, along with a clearer timeline. It would be dangerous to adopt the pretense that sustainability can be achieved merely through the declaration of sustainability pledges," Sarwono pointed out.

"Minister Siti Nurbaya has already reached out constructively to the parties involved. What about the other relevant ministers? Other related ministries? All of them need to focus on constructive and coherent efforts," Sarwono asserted.

The palm oil industry, Sarwono explained, forms an important part of the global supply chain, thereby making it essential that a feeling of joint responsibility is fostered on all fronts of this global supply chain.

"As a country with vast land resources, including the areas where palm oil plantations are located, and for the purposes of future expansion, Indonesia has a trump card which it needs to play in terms of issues of sustainability. However, Indonesia's role in sustainability should not be adopted merely due to pressure, but rather because we really understand that there is a great advantage to be had from playing this important role," Sarwono added.

He went on to recommend that, as a tropical country with great biodiversity, Indonesia should restrict the expansion of palm oil.

"If we fail to limit the expansion of palm oil plantation development, we are inevitably going to lose our biodiversity. We need to enforce such a limit with explicit measures," Sarwono stressed.

Sarwono added that we are entering a world of sustainability branding, giving the palm oil industry the chance to prove itself as more competitive and sustainable.

"IPOP, for example, should not become seen as some kind of theatrical performance. If we are merely acting here, Indonesia will undoubtedly become a victim," warned Sarwono, who is also a senior advisor to the Minister of the Environment and Forestry.

Sarwono emphasized that the rhetoric of sustainability used by various palm oil companies annoys the public, but it should be noted that the public will eventually start demanding action rather than words, so that sooner or later the rhetoric will have to become more substantial and, in turn, the fulfillment of sustainability pledges will also become more widespread.

Minister Siti Nurbaya has previously declared her readiness to study IPOP in depth by means of bilateral cooperation with the US Government, and because this process is underway she has stated that the content of IPOP would not be categorically rejected or accepted as yet.