Unilever and Indonesian government-owned palm oil plantation company PT Perkebunan Nusantara (PTPN) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together in Indonesia to support local mills and smallholder farmers to produce palm oil according to the standards of no deforestation, no development on peat and no exploitation of people and communities (NDPE). This produce-protect partnership will help farmers to increase their yields and improve their livelihoods.
“As a Holding Company, PTPN III manages ± 61% of its area as oil palm plantations divided in 10 subsidiaries, some of which are already certified as sustainable. We are committed to continuing sustainable palm oil management” said Erwan Pelawi, Operating Managing Director PTPN III Holding Company. “Palm oil from smallholders also enters our supply chain through PTPN Group’s palm oil mills. Therefore, being able to source from certified smallholder farmers gives us the ability to produce quality and sustainable palm oil products. The MoU with Unilever is expected to improve the quality of how smallholder farmers manage palm oil cultivation and will also accelerate the process of sustainable palm oil certification which will in turn provide better benefits for the welfare of oil palm farmers in Indonesia”.
Palm Oil is a very emotive subject for many and rightly so, it is responsible for a huge amount of deforestation and environmental damage. Whilst it is important to welcome the idea of sustainable palm oil creation it is also important to note that many of these schemes have, in the past, not been anywhere near as sustainable as they have claimed. There needs to be some quite stringent governing of this to ensure it sticks to the values it claims. I think, at best we can tentatively welcome this whilst keeping a close eye on whether this is as sustainable as it suggests. Unilever, on the whole do try to be an ethically sound company and palm oil production is one of the major things that has let them down in the past so we can hope this is a step in the right direction but they need to be monitored to make sure this delivers as promised/implied. It is an area that they need to do better in and it remains to be seen if this is actually as the above release tells us or if there is more to it. There are many strong and persuasive arguments that there are lots of alternatives to palm oil, which does cause great devestation, so there also needs to be a question asked about what alternatives Unilever are seeking in the long run.