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Seminar “Raising the ceiling or the floor?”

On September 17, 2019, a seminar on “Sustainable Supply Chains for Palm Oil” was co-hosted by the “Social Cooperation Committee” and “Development Business Research Group” of the International Development Association at the Institute for Global Coexistence, University of the Sacred Heart. Yoshida, the representative director of our institute, gave a presentation.

This seminar will discuss how companies should understand RSPO (Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil)*, the main certification standard for palm oil, and the certification standards (MSPO/ISPO) independently set by the Malaysian and Indonesian governments. The purpose of the event was to exchange opinions from the perspectives of environmental protection and social development.

The keynote speaker was Teo Chiang Hai, the first secretary general of RSPO. He was also involved in the formulation of MSPO. Mr. Chen Hai gave a lecture on ``Issues in the intra-Asia palm oil supply chain.'' The main points of contention are as follows.

  • When considered globally, palm oil has the highest land productivity compared to other vegetable oils, and if we stop using palm oil and switch to other oils, more land will be needed

  • Compared to regular palm oil, RSPO-certified palm oil has no difference in quality, only the price is higher, so only half of the produced amount is consumed. The rest is consumed at the same price as regular oil without added value.

  • In order to produce all palm oil sustainably, a system that complements RSPO is necessary, and therefore both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments are promoting MSPO and ISPO, which will make it easier for smallholder farmers to participate. are doing.

The key word for ``What we can do'' that Mr. Chen Hai suggested is ``Raising the ceiling or the floor?''

Do we "Raise the ceiling", that is, seek palm oil that is more sustainable (and necessarily more expensive) by improving the accuracy of the RSPO certification system and monitoring it more closely? Or will we go in the direction of ``Raising the Floor,'' in other words, expanding the overall base by increasing the productivity and sustainability of small-scale farmers, who are rarely able to obtain RSPO certification?

There is no single answer, but there are various issues in the supply chain surrounding palm oil. I thought that a good start would be to incorporate the perspectives of producers and consumers and continue discussions from a broader perspective.

Then, from the perspective of a company that uses palm oil, Mr. Yamada of Fuji Oil presented on Fuji Oil's sustainable procurement of palm oil and its evaluation from society. Next, from the perspective of an environmental NGO, Mr. Kawakami of Rainforest Action Network reported on issues with the RSPO, MSPO, and ISPO certification systems, as well as issues with Olympic and Paralympic procurement standards. It was reported that even though palm oil is certified, its sustainability is not truly guaranteed.

Finally, Yoshida, the representative director of our institute, reported on the current situation and awareness of farmers at production sites from the perspective of small-scale farmers in Indonesia. Farmers who have been producing oil palm on small-scale farmland provided by the government's migration policy for nearly 20 years, and farmers who have been producing cacao but are considering switching to oil palm in recent years because it is more profitable. , raised the issue of whether it is okay for these people to be excluded from certification due to environmental conservation standards brought in from outside, even though they are not directly complicit in deforestation or forced labor.

We at Jizoken believe that "sustainability" has many faces, including biodiversity, the environment, social issues such as forced labor and child labor, and in the case of palm oil, the accuracy of the certification system. Discussions are needed from various aspects such as sustainability and coercive power, but in order for more people to work on sustainability, it is necessary to incorporate the perspectives of people who are producing products on the ground and general consumers. That's what I think.

In that sense, Mr. Chen Hai's proposal of ``Raising the ceiling or the floor?'' means that more farmers will work on sustainability, and more consumers will This seminar made me think again about how we can create an opportunity and a forum for discussion that will encourage people to choose highly sustainable products.

*Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil

An international non-profit organization established in 2004, led by related organizations including the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), in response to the attention paid to the environmental and social problems caused by palm oil. RSPO's objective is to promote sustainable palm oil production and use, and has developed a certification system to this end.


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