The Palm Scribe

Role of “Shared Responsibility” in Educating Indonesians on Sustainable Palm Oil 

Indonesia is not only the world’s top palm oil producer but also its top consumer, but there was still a serious need to educate consumers in this world’s fourth largest nation to boost absorption of certified sustainable palm oil at home, experts said.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm oil (RSPO) Director, Indonesia, Tiur Rumondang said that while there had been an impressive growth in the production of certified palm oil among members of the multi-stakeholder organization in the past 14 years, with their production accounting of about 20 percent of world supply, absorption was still lagging behind.

“It cannot be denied that in reality… the around 15 million (tons) that is being produced under RSPO certification, have not yet been able to be fully absorbed by the market,” Rumondang told an online media gathering held by RSPO on August 19, 2020 to discuss the Shared Responsibility concept in harmonizing production and consumption of sustainable palm oil, especially in Indonesia.

Agus Purnomo, Managing Director for Sustainability and Strategic Stakeholder Engagement Golden Agri Resources (GAR) also said that domestic supply of certified palm oil was still much higher than market demand. The absorption rate of sustainable palm oil by the Indonesian market in June this year, was just at around 13 percent of available supply.

“When we produce products that have obtained sustainability certification, there is still a problem, as buyers turn out not to be looking for such products,” Purnomo told the same forum.

He pointed out that unfairly, so far, the responsibility to achieve sustainability in the palm oil sector has been mainly heaped on the shoulders of producers and therefore there was a need for a shared responsibility “that would draw the participation of those who are the consumers, the buyers of these palm oil products in attaining this.”

Rumondang also said that under the shared responsibility concept, the RSPO also wanted to encourage the efforts of all stakeholders within the palm oil supply chain, in transforming the market and make sustainable palm oil the norm.

Tulus Abadi, Chairman of the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI) admitted that in Indonesia, the majority of consumers were still very “price sensitive,” especially when it concerned essential food products, including cooking oil. Abadi added that Indonesian consumers were also still unfamiliar with the concept of sustainability.

“This happened because there has been no education provided by industry players to consumers about product knowledge as well as because of the absence of a clear policy in this matter,” Abadi said, adding that under the Law on Consumer Protection, the responsibility to educate consumers fell on business players.

He also reminded that there was also a need to first empower consumers, considering that their purchasing power was still forcing them to be sensitive to prices.

“At the present, there is a great need for a joint effort to ascertain that producers who produce palm oil in a sustainable way receive the benefit that they deserve and that consumers use their purchasing power to incentivize producers, especially smallholders,” said Aditya Bayunanda, Head of Market Transformation WWF-Indonesia.

Abadi said that there was a need for efforts to build up awareness among consumers about the products that they were consuming. “Consumers have the rights to education and this consumer education has of course to be provided by business players as well as the government as the permit issuer and supervisor,” he said.

Rumondang also said that so far, she had not yet seen a real role played by the various sides, in providing consumer education on product knowledge. Consumers, she added, were also mostly only associating palm oil with cooking oil, unaware that palm oil was also an important component of a huge variety of goods and products that they use in their daily life.

“The first constraint, is that when not every side feels compelled to take up the responsibility to educate consumers, not only consumers now, but also those in the future,” she said.

More from Didiet Nugraha.
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