The COVID-19 pandemic, which had begun to really hit Indonesia in March, has caused economic hardship for many, including smallholders in the palm oil sector, but buyers of the commodities have come up with a number of programs to help keep them on the track of sustainability.
Reuben Blecke, Manager of Sustainable Agriculture (AMESA and APAC Regions) for PepsiCo said that his business has a number of programs to help farmers seriously impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, to continue their sustainability practices. To better improve these programs, PepsiCo has not only evaluated their implementation but has also analyzed the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on smallholders,
“We hope that the programs we support will help farmers overcome this problem. We are currently reviewing the impact of these programs for during the COVID-19 period. In addition, our suppliers are also analyzing the impacts of COVID-19,” Reuben said.
Reuben said that he and his team were trying to demonstrate that oil palm is not the controversial crop that always causes problems, but that it is the way we cultivate oil palm that gives rise to issues in the sustainability program. Controversy surrounding oil palm, which always causes issues is not the problem, but our way of growing oil palm is causing the issues to sustainability programs. However, they also were not only focused on just one problem because the welfare of farmers was also one of their main goals.
“Oil Palm as a crop, is not the problem and can of course (palm oil) can be produced without all those controversies. We want to show and demonstrate that oil palm can be grown in a way that is in line with sustainability programs,” Reuben said. “However, we would also not just focus on environmental sustainability alone. We also need to focus on other factors to help smallholders. Like the welfare of farmers, ” he added.
Unilever also has its own commitment to help assure that sustainability programs would continue to run has they have and the company has committed itself to provide a fund of one trillion euro to support the smooth continuation of sustainability programs and thus provide a clearer direction for the future. This funds will also continue to be coordinated so as to help farmers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As I have mentioned, we remain committed. The CEO of Unilever Global has announced that Unilever has committed a funding of one billion Euro to encourage sustainability programs so that they do not change and continue to progress. This is in the hope of being able to help farmers and other sides during this difficult time for the economy,” said Achmad Adhitya, Senior Manager of Sustainable Resources, PT Unilever Indonesia.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia has now entered its fourth month, and so far it has already infected 54,010 people in the country, A total of 22,936 patients had managed to recover but 2,754 others lost their life to the virus.
Jonathan Escolar, Sustainable Sourcing Assurance Officer for The Body Shop also said that his enterprise fully supported efforts to safeguard the continuation of sustainability practices in the palm oil sector. The Body Shop has allocated special funds to support environmental sustainability programs, as the company’s goals and mission were also in line with the principle of sustainability.
“What we can do is to continue to support oil palm farmers, we have also allocated special funds to support environmental sustainability programs. Because these sustainability programs are also in line with our company’s vision and mission, ” Jonathan said.
Body Shop itself is already well known for its sustainability programs and their campaigns to support the environment such as the World Bio-Bridges Mission in 2017 and Bio Bridges in several Asian countries, as well as other campaigns related to the animal sector and also human trafficking.