Blog / 9 December 2013

'The winner takes all'

'The winner takes all'


The Netherlands is a major importer of soy and palm oil and feels pressure to make production more sustainable. The Dutch government, businesses and NGOs have successfully created an international image of the Netherlands as a pioneer in the field of sustainable supply chains. As success attracts success, many are eager to join and copy this model.


Until now all seems fine. There is one big problem though: the Dutch sustainability efforts seem to cause a serious form of miopia. These initiatives cover only a small proportion of global production. The rest of the world’s economic activity is still very damaging to people and nature, due to rampant use of pesticides in agriculture, industrial water pollution, the construction of ports, and so on.


If we continue focusing on sustainability initiatives, it will soon be as if the Netherlands is sitting cosily at round tables, working on the small piece of the global pie in which the Dutch meet each other while striving for sustainability. But outside it’s cold and often violent. There, people resist to the destruction and pollution of land, water and air, and sometimes literally put their own lives on the line.


In the Netherlands it is becoming less and less socially acceptable to talk about this struggle; here, we only mean well and are actively contributing to changing the world. But we aren’t . If we continue to ignore those who fight against increasing environmental degradation, we will soon be left with just a tiny green piece of the pie. In this scenario there will no more ecosystem left to source our sustainably produced soy and palm oil.


Let’s avoid this mentality of ‘the winner takes it all’. Any solid basis for a sustainable future vanishes as soon as ecosystems are destroyed and social cohesion disappears. Dutch companies, NGOs and governments that truly want a green and fair future for this world, should not only invest in the improvement in a few production chains, but should also support the fight for political and financial space of all those people who try to stop destructive developments. If we don’t, we will have a lot of knowledge on sustainable production in a world that has become unlivable.

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