Beyond palm oil certification

ARTIKEL | 4 maj 2015
Norman Jiwan visits Swedwatch´s office in Stockholm Foto: Frida Arounsavath

Swedish companies should not content themselves with RSPO certification, says Norman Jiwan to Swedwatch in an interview about the palm oil industry. And consumers should demand palm oil that is not only good for wildlife, but also free from conflict and forced labour.

Norman Jiwan, the founder of the NGO TuK INDONESIA, recently visited Sweden to share his experiences from working with communities affected by palm oil companies, and to give input to Sweden’s development of a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights.

The global palm oil industry produces 60 million tonnes of crude palm oil per year. Only 12 million tonnes come from plantations which are certified under the voluntary sustainability standard RSPO (Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil)and even certified plantations are facing allegations of social and environmental conflicts. Swedwatch met with Norman Jiwan to understand more about the current sustainability challenges on the ground in Indonesia, and to hear his views on how Swedish and European companies and consumers can contribute to a more sustainable production and sourcing of palm oil.

According to Norman Jiwan, consumers should first question why the Swedish companies have such low certification ambitions. For example, how many years will it take for Sweden’s largest palm oil importer, Århus Karlshamn (AAK), to reach its target of 100% certified oil, Norman Jiwan asks.

At the same time he appeals to Swedish consumers, and not least companies, to see beyond the RSPO label, and instead demand palm oil free from conflict, forced labour, and deforestation. Strong national legal frameworks and enforcement mechanism are required for a voluntary certification like RSPO to work, and this is lacking in Indonesia. Therefore companies cannot rely solely on the certification to ensure a palm oil production which fully respects human rights and environmental standards, according to Jiwan.

– The fact that some company standards are now more far reaching than RSPO itself really tells us something about the current inadequacy of the certification. Forced evictions of communities, use of the chemical paraquat, and child labour issues are recurring problems also at certified plantations.

It is estimated that there are currently 40,000 stateless children of migrant workers living at the oil palm plantations along the Indonesian and Malaysian borders. These children have no papers and no rights, and the palm oil companies draw on this pool of cheap labour, Jiwan add

Swedwatch will continue to follow how companies abide by international norms and standards in the full supply chain – from financing streams to establishing plantations, and to the end use in cosmetics, food and fuels. For the full Q&A and more detailed answers from the interview, as well as facts about Jiwan, see the attached document.

For more information on consumption of palm oil and it’s consequences, see also Naturskyddsföreningen.