High-level policy dialogue on advancing global trade in sustainable palm oil to benefit the planet and its people

A recording of the session is available here.

As Indonesia holds the G20 Presidency for 2022, it has the opportunity to take the lead in discussions to advance a sustainable and equitable palm oil trade that will bring benefits to Indonesia’s economy, environment and people. To seize this valuable opportunity, the GCRF Trade, Development and the Environment Hub (TRADE Hub) held a public policy dialogue aimed at allowing governments, the private sector, civil society and the international community to share perspectives on positioning sustainable and equitable palm oil trade in global green deals; Indonesia’s G20 Presidency agenda to advance sustainable and equitable palm oil; and to communicate CIFOR-led research activities on sustainable palm oil under the GCRF TRADE Hub. Held on 22 March 2022, and facilitated by experienced TV news anchor Sara Wayne, the dialogue had 205 participants in attendance. 

The dialogue began with opening remarks from Dr Sonya Dewi and Dr Robert Nasi, followed by a keynote speech from a representative of Indonesia’s Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Held in a talk show format, the dialogue was divided into two sessions. During the first session, Sara Wayne facilitated a discussion on opportunities, barriers and progress in implementing global green deals for palm oil trade with Prof. Neil Burgess, Chief Scientist of UNEP-WCMC and Principal Investigator of TRADE Hub; Prof. Ahmad Maryudi from Gadjah Mada University; Agam Fatchurrochman, Deputy Secretary of the Indonesian Palm Oil Association (GAPKI); and Made Ali, Coordinator of the Riau Forest Saviours Working Network (Jikalahari). 

Prof. Neil Burgess started the discussion by cautioning that increasing global awareness of, interest in and preference for more sustainable supply chains could necessitate more support for smallholder farmers, who might otherwise be negatively impacted by the stricter standards and regulations these trends require. Prof. Ahmad Maryudi reinforced this assertion by explaining that the failure of existing initiatives to create worldwide deforestation-free palm oil supply chains have already pushed governing bodies in the EU to tighten their legislation.

Agam Fatchurrochman contended that comprehensive solutions are needed to mitigate the impacts new policies on sustainable palm oil can have on all stakeholders. He added that agreements need to be established on sustainability certification standards and systems.

Made Ali suggested that proactive actions from the government are needed to help smallholders establish community-based enterprises or cooperatives as vehicles for them to share knowledge and register themselves in complying with green deal regulations

During the second session, the dialogue focussed on harnessing the opportunities afforded by Indonesia’s G20 Presidency to strengthen the sustainable palm oil trade. Shofwan Al Banna, an Associate Professor at the University of Indonesia, agreed that Indonesia must seize the momentum its G20 Presidency provides to advance sustainable palm oil at the international level in the midst of the global pandemic.

In addition, CIFOR-ICRAF and IPB University scientist Prof. Herry Purnomo said G20 forums can also provide opportunities to strengthen the sustainable practices already being implemented in Indonesia by collaborating with various actors in the palm oil trade to provide financial and technical support to smallholder farmers. Bremen Yong Kin Kong, Director of Sustainability at Apical Group, agreed saying green funds could be put to use to accelerate transformations in commodity supply chains. He also stressed the importance of trust and inclusivity in any collaborative efforts to achieve sustainability goals, particularly in policy forums and decision making processes.

Beatriz Fernandez, Associate Programme Management Officer of Environment and Trade at UNEP, closed the session by conveying her hope that G20 forums can produce inclusive agreements on sustainable trading and advance the sustainable palm oil trade agenda through policies. After a question and answer session, the event was wrapped up by RCCC-UI scientist, Dr Sonny Mumbunan.