Fighting for more sustainable palm oil
The production of palm oil is causing social and environmental problems worldwide. Both ENDS is working to make the sector fairer and more sustainable and is promoting alternatives for palm oil.
Worldwide palm oil production has been growing for several decades. The oil palm is one of the cheapest and most productive sources of vegetable oil. It is therefore used for many products, including chocolate, toothpaste, shampoo and washing-up liquid, and as a biofuel.
Social and environmental problems
The production of palm oil causes a lot of problems. Firstly, there is the damage to the environment: precious rainforest – the habitat of many species, including tigers, elephants and orangutans – is sacrificed to produce it. Often, the forest is set on fire, releasing large quantities of greenhouse gases. And around plantations, much ground and surface water is contaminated by fertiliser and pesticides.
Palm oil production also causes social problems. In areas where new plantations are planned, conflicts often arise about land rights. Communities in these areas rarely have formal land rights and they are often robbed of their land and means of subsistence by palm oil companies. The only choice they then have left is to go and work on the plantations, where working conditions and pay are bad.
The problems relating to palm oil are occurring not only in Malaysia and Indonesia – in the latter alone nine million hectares (more than twice the size of the Netherlands) had been turned into oil palm plantations by the end of 2016 – but increasingly also in Africa and Latin America.
The Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)
In 2001, in response to the growing problems around palm oil, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and a number of companies (including Unilever) took the initiative to set up the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Both ENDS joined the RSPO in 2005. The RSPO now has more than 3,000 members, including companies involved in cultivating, trading in and processing palm oil, financial institutions and civil society organisations.
The RSPO aims to achieve 100% RSPO-certified palm oil. There are other certificates for sustainable or fair palm oil, but they are less strict than the RSPO standard. RSPO-certified companies have committed themselves to providing good working conditions for their employees, respecting land rights and other rights of local populations, and refraining from felling or burning down valuable forest for palm oil plantations. Due to sometimes inadequate compliance with and enforcement of the RSPO guidelines, however, abuses still often come to light surrounding certified plantations.
To further strengthen the voice of affected communities, Both ENDS continues to work within the RSPO to achieve better compliance with the guidelines and a more effective complaints mechanism. In addition, on the initiative of Both ENDS, the RSPO has launched an RSPO Outreach programme. Through this programme, the RSPO supports local organisations that wish to inform communities affected by palm oil production of the opportunities for addressing problems via the RSPO and to help them find solutions.
Participatory Land Use Planning
One way to safeguard the land rights of local populations is Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP). PLUP entails mapping out actual local land use together with the local people. Showing what land they use for their means of subsistence strengthens their position in negotiations with palm oil companies and they receive a voice in the decision-making on land use.
Rich Forests: the forest as a sustainable source of income
Forest-dwelling communities generally depend on the forest for their means of subsistence. Besides the fields they use to grow rice and other crops, they also gather other food such as fruit, nuts and honey and other necessary natural materials like cane from the forest.
With our Rich Forests project, we promote methods to make the forest productive through agro-forestry and help communities to market products they gather in the forest, so as to increase their incomes. That also increases their resilience in fighting against the unregulated spread of plantations for palm oil and other monocultures like sugarcane, bananas or soya.
Read more about this subject
Participatory Land Use Planning (PLUP) is a rights-based approach ensuring inclusive and gender-responsive land governance, especially for those whose rights to land are not fully acknowledged.
Together with civil society organisations from all over the world, the Fair Green and Global (FGG) Alliance aims for socially just, inclusive and environmentally sustainable societies in the Netherlands and the Global South.
News / 23 November 2018
The production of palm oil is often accompanied by deforestation, environmental destruction and land grabbing. Local communities and activists who stand up against these problems are often threatened. Now the RSPO has taken significant steps in recent months to tackle these issues.
News / 28 June 2018
Last week, indigenous leaders from various countries were in Paris to urge action on deforestation and human rights abuses at the multi-stakeholder meeting of the Amsterdam Declarations Partnership. The group, invited by Forests Peoples Programme and Both ENDS, presented a publication 'Supply chain solutions for people and forests' containing a set of practical recommendations from local communities on how to make supply chains more sustainable and fair.
Publication / 27 June 2018
News / 15 May 2018
Both ENDS and Forest Peoples Program have formally requested the European Parliament, Commission and Council and the EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström, to consult indigenous and local communities impacted by EU trade in palm oil and other agricultural commodities in formal EU policy deliberations on these topics. Why did we decide to do so and what's it all about? Our colleague Michael Rice sheds some light on the matter.
Blog / 29 January 2018By Michael Rice
Pak Japin is a quiet, slim, and softly-spoken man from the village of Silat Hulu, West Kalimantan, Indonesia. I met him at a recent documentary screening in Bali on the fringe of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) annual conference, where he spoke about his community's nine year-long conflict with palm oil company Golden Agri Resources Ltd (GAR).
News / 18 December 2017
Last month, our partner Utz Che' filed a lawsuit against the Guatemalan state on behalf of some communities along the Madre Vieja River. The communities demand, among other things, that their right to water is respected and that they are protected against water abuse and pollution by large-scale agriculture.
News / 12 December 2017
We are outraged and saddened to hear that Hernán Bedoya, a brave Colombian community leader and human rights defender, has been brutally murdered. After numerous threats to his life and despite all the best efforts of local groups to provide him with protection (such as bullet proof vests, cell phone etc.) he was shot dead by paramilitaries last Friday the 8th of December, while riding home on his horse.
News / 24 October 2017
On 30 September 2017 Both ENDS submitted a position statement on the draft Indonesian Sustainable Palm Oil National Action Plan. The draft National Action Plan purports to represent a blue print for improving the sustainability of the Indonesian palm oil industry. However, Both ENDS has significant concerns about the logic, rationale and purpose behind the draft National Action Plan and its legitimacy as a benchmark for a sustainable palm oil industry.
Video / 30 June 2017
Farmer in Kiungkang, West-Kalimantan, talks about the effects of the palm oil plantation around his village on food production and the health of the population.
News / 30 June 2017
In 2005, a palm oil company approached the villagers of Kiungkang in West-Kalimantan, Indonesia, with offers to convert their farms to oil palm smallholdings. Many farmers agreed to the proposal because of the high monthly incomes promised by the company that they could earn from the oil palms. Unfortunately, the palm oil dream turned out to be an illusion.
News / 5 September 2016
By 2020, the EU wants a larger percentage of fuel used for transportation to consist of renewable sources, such as biofuel. Many European countries have therefore made the blending of biofuels in diesel and gasoline mandatory. A large proportion of this biofuel is now palm oil.
News / 8 December 2015
Both ENDS has, as a member of the RSPO, participated in a dialogue with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Netherlands is the largest importer of palm oil in Europe and wants to promote sustainable trade and production chains.
Publication / 27 January 2015
Video / 24 November 2014
The impacts of large-scale soy and palm oil production explained by local experts.
Video / 18 November 2013
Between 2010 and 2013, Both ENDS, together with Indonesian and Dutch organisations and universities, conducted a project in the district of Sanggau in West-Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, Indonesia. The project was meant to help local communities with the recognition of their land rights and. This is a beautiful short documentary about how the people of one of these villages responded to the ever expanding palm oil plantations around them.