The Palm Scribe

The Crucial Role of Consumers in Pushing for Sustainable Palm Oil

Palm Oil in Hand
Photo: AFP

Consumers, now exposed daily to a variety of products that use palm oil, can actually play an important role in promoting a sustainable palm oil production which does not raise environmental or social problems.

Imam A. El Marzuq, Senior Manager of Global Community Outreach & Engagement Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) said that the current pandemic could be a momentum for Indonesian to make changes, by choosing to consume only sustainable palm oil products and urging producers to use sustainable palm oil in their production and sales.

“This pandemic situation has brought us into a difficult situation, but this is also a momentum for us to make changes, especially as we interact, consume, how do we choose which one is good for us to use or buy,” said Imam at a virtual talk event organized by RSPO with Good Growth Partnership (GGP) and Superindo

“Our role as consumers, especially in this pandemic period, can provide the momentum to make our life better, we can try to ask producers to provide these products,” he added.

Experts addressing the virtual talk show described how the public has now begun to realize  the benefits and positive impacts that sustainable palm oil products have on the environment and human life.

According to the results of a study by MarkPlus, 82 percent of respondents were willing to change their daily consumption of products containing palm oil with products that use sustainable palm oil, when the product choice was available. These products were already available, but the lack of use of ecolabels on product packaging made it difficult for consumers to distinguish them.

“We can try to ask producers to provide the product, because producers are just waiting. ‘I have no demand from my market so why should I make it’,” said Imam.

He said the use of ecolabels can help guide consumers to see which products have been properly produced. “Ecolabeling is a tool, but the key point lies with us (consumers), if we want to try, at least ask the producers to provide it. The possibility for us to change our consumption patterns and create a better palm oil industry will open up,” added Imam.

People were also advised that whenever they were shopping for their daily needs, especially products containing palm oil products, to first check whether there was a sustainability label, such as that of the RSPO certified logo, green palm, or other logos, which reflected the sustainability of the product.

“An easy way is to look at the sustainability label printed on the product, for example, for cooking oil there are products that carry the RSPO certified logo, green palm, and others,” said Steve Mualim, Sustainable Palm Oil Technical Specialist, World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Winda Adelita Saragih, Operations Associate at RSPO invited the public to not only choose products that were labeled as sustainable, but also to help educate people around them about the availability of sustainable palm oil products.

“One of the simplest ways is that we can help educate the people around us about the existence of sustainable palm oil products. The simplest way, we can use our social media (Instagram, Facebook, Whatsapp, Linkedin) to share information about sustainable palm oil products,” said Winda.

In addition, Winda said consumers could also upload photos of products containing palm oil such as soap, shampoo, chocolate, cooking oil, cosmetics and others and tag the social media accounts of the companies producing these products and ask them to use palm oil as raw material. They could also ask producers to carry the RSPO trademark or other sustainability certification label on its products if their palm oil were certified sustainable and thus, provide a guarantee to  consumers that the product contained sustainable palm oil.

Prof. Dr. Bambang Hero Saharjo from the Faculty of Forestry, Bogor Agricultural University (IPB) also emphasized that Indonesia’s natural resources were limited, some of which were even already in damaged conditions. If a sustainability system was not implemented, new disasters could continue to arise in the future.

“Existing resources are limited, and some of them are already in a damaged condition, please use them in a sustainable way. Because if not, it could be triggering a new disaster in the future,” said Bambang.

He also said that development which was carried out in a sustainable manner, would be able to meet the current needs of the world’s population without sacrificing the needs of future generations.

Read more from Didiet Nugraha.
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