Most young people are unaware of the importance that palm oil plays in their life. For them, the commodity and its producing industry are more often than not, perceived in a negative way, a perspective that has been fed to most people since they were small children.
As Miss Earth Indonesia 2017, Michelle Alriani believes that the country’s young generation lacked education about the palm oil industry. She herself, admitted that in the beginning, she also saw the palm oil industry as one that destructed the environment.
“Initially, before studying about palm oil seriously, I had a negative image (about the industry),” Alriani told The Palm Scribe.
Alriani, who is currently studying at Gadjah Mada University majoring in law said that when she was taking part in the Miss Earth International pageant, a jury asked what she thought about palm oil and she had immediately replied with how bad she thought the palm oil industry was for the environment.
But her perspective later changed.
“I took the initiative to further study about the conditions, and realized how much efforts had been done in sustainable palm oil,” she said. Alriani also said that many people were not aware of the other side of the palm oil industry and said that strong publications on sustainable palm oil production were crucial for the industry.
The young girl, who was among the Top 16 in intelligence and environmental awareness at the Miss Earth International pageant, said that embracing the younger generation and providing them with information on the palm oil industry are no less important but this had to be done through innovative ways so that it does not get quickly boring, “For example, through video competitions and the challenge of raising awareness. The focus should be on sustainable palm oil and how the young generation can contribute,” she said.
Her Miss Earth Indonesia 2017 title has made Alriani feel responsible to promote a sustainable palm oil industry to young generation. She said she contributed through the digital world as well as in her daily life. “For example, through postings in Instagram Stories,” she said, adding that the high level of attention she received in the social media was helpful in her efforts to transmit the messages.
Alriani also said that at present, she always opted to buy products that were certified as sustainable. “I buy products carrying the RSPO label or any other environmentally-friendly labels. This is a small step, but small steps are important,” she said.
The participation of the young generation is indeed needed by the palm oil industry, According to her, the problem affecting the palm oil industry is its weakness in communication strategy among producers, something they would need to interact with the public, especially overseas.
“What is needed is more information on the positive aspects and the positive efforts in Indonesia, in English, so that they can balance information received by foreign countries and change their perspective on the Indonesian palm oil industry,” she said, adding further that this was a great opportunity for youth to show their creativity.
As someone who spent part of her childhood abroad, Alriani puts a lot of attention to the future of the Indonesian palm oil industry. According to her, the problems of the industry were not only the sole responsibility of a few but were that of the entire society because palm oil is one of the main contributors to the Indonesian economy.
“We have the power to create change. This is the power needed by the palm oil industry. Our collective power to create a change in perspective,” she concluded.