Indonesian palm oil growers hope a new environmental certification system being launched by the government soon will help to counter the widespread perception that producers here are damaging the environment.
However, the new certification system has not impressed Greenpeace, which has been aggressively campaigning for more sustainable palm oil production.
“If we have our own standard on green certification for palm oil, hopefully it will counter the negative campaign against palm oil because it shows our will to produce sustainable CPO,” Fadhil Hasan, executive director of the Indonesia Palm Oil Producers Association (Gapki), said on Friday.
The government has been working on the Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil certification since last July and hopes to launch it by next month.
“We expect to issue ISPO by next month,” said Mukti Sarjono, director general of estate crops at the Ministry of Agriculture.
Currently, some Indonesian palm oil producers are certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, an international multi-stakeholder organization that issues certificates to producers commensurate with their environmental standards.
However, unlike RSPO certification, which is voluntary, the new Indonesian government certification system will be compulsory for all Indonesian palm oil producers, Mukti said. The RSPO has endorsed the ISPO on its Web site.
Mukti would not give specific details about ISPO criteria. But he said it would assist palm oil sector stakeholders to conduct Social Impact Assessments for existing palm oil plantations and areas that will be converted to plantations.
Bustar Maitar, team leader for forests at Greenpeace Southeast Asia, questioned why the Indonesian government needed to create its own environmental certification system, when palm oil producers already could be certified by the RSPO.
“I’m afraid the initiative came from producers because they don’t want to be busy and wasting time following RSPO sustainable criteria,” he said.
Bustar also questioned why the ISPO criteria had not been made public even though it was due to be launched soon.
“No one has seen the draft,” he said. It was common practice for the public and the industry to be able to see a draft of new standards to offer feedback before it was finalized, Bustar said.
Palm oil producers have come under attack on a number of fronts in recent months. Environmentalists complain the growth of palm oil plantations contributes to deforestation and increases emissions of greenhouse gases. These claims are being taken increasingly seriously by international palm oil buyers.
Global consumer products giant Unilever suspended purchases from major palm oil producer the Sinar Mas Group in December, after Greenpeace alleged it was devastating rainforests and habitats for endangered species. Nestle followed suit in March.