Zero-deforestation commitments are emerging rapidly in Indonesia. They already encompass a large portion of crude palm oil production and almost all the pulp and paper (P&P) sector; typically, they reflect the values of the “no-deforestation, no-exploitation (social) and no-peat” policies.
These commitments depend on definitions of ‘forests’ for their identification and conservation, which in turn rely on methodologies such as High Conservation Value and High Carbon Stock.
Early implementation has revealed that the palm oil sector is facing a number of governance challenges to achieve commitments: the legal framework is not systematically supportive of the pledges, and the government promotes a different vision of sustainability. Of note is the fact that the P&P sector is more advanced.
Integration of smallholders into sustainable value chains poses another challenge for the palm oil sector: traceability, better environmental performance and improved yields require urgent action. Legalization of smallholder operations is critical and goes beyond commitments, because it determines access to financing and certification, among others.
To be effective, zero-deforestation commitments must align public and private governance arrangements. This requires an agreement on visions of sustainability supported by public policies; progress on land tenure; enforcement of progressive regulations at national and regional levels; and the implementation of strong policies to rationalize the expansion of small and medium holdings of oil palm.
Legacy issues must also be addressed for the main palm oil and P&P groups: land restitution through due processes, support to smallholders and investments in land restoration are some promising avenues worth pursuing.