Dutch Cabinet slowly taking steps towards sustainable palm oil and soy
On Wednesday November 5th, Dutch State Secretary for Infrastructure and Environment, Mansveld, and Minister for Agriculture, Dijksma, issued a letter to the Dutch House of Representatives. This letter was their reaction to the ‘Advice Sustainability Food Sector’, which was drafted at the request of the Cabinet by the Commission Sustainability Issues Biomass – or Commission Corbey in short. Paul Wolvekamp of Both ENDS is member of this commission and gave his opinion on the letter.
On what was the Commission supposed to give advice?
“The Cabinet requested the Commission to look into ways for the Netherlands to make the food sector as sustainable as possible, and to issue advice on this. Not only in the Netherlands, but also in countries where we get our resources and other food products from. The Commission has, amongst others, ordered the Landbouw Economisch Instituut (LEI) and the University of Wageningen to conduct several studies, and has done an analysis and several recommendations. We presented these to the Cabinet in a report some time ago. In part, the letter issued by Dijksma and Mansveld is a reaction to this. In December, a general meeting will be held in the House of Representatives, during which the letter will be discussed.”
What was mentioned in the letter?
“The Cabinet has accepted several concrete commendations; these will likely be incorporated in government policy. For example, our recommendation to learn from the currently existing sustainability criteria for biofuels was seen as interesting. And the importance of transparency in the food chain, which the Commission supports – so think of: where does it come from, where was it produced, what are the consequences and who is accountable – is also backed by the Cabinet. In line with the Commission’s recommendations, the Cabinet says it will tie in with initiatives that have already been developed by companies to make the food chain more transparent. And, ‘last but not least’, I think it is a good sign that the government will follow advice on sustainabilising consumption patterns.”
Was the letter also disappointing?
“A few years ago, the Dutch agro-food industries agreed on only using certified soy and palm oil after the year 2015. This is a difficult process that is being monitored by the industries themselves. Of course, ultimately the progress made will be validated by the CBS (Central Bureau for Statistics), but in the meantime, the Cabinet sits back and leaves everything to the market and NGOs. The production of soy and palm oil is cause for many social and environmental problems, and the Netherlands is a large consumer. Our government could and should do more to stimulate the use of certified soy – for instance via fiscal measures – and draft clear rules on the requirements of the production of these resources. Businesses as well have mentioned that it would help if forerunners in sustainability were rewarded, and ‘free riders’ were discouraged.”
So now what?
“Of course, I hope that the Cabinet will not only incorporate the recommendations in policy during the rest of the office term, but also really implement this policy. Only then will we be able to see its effects in Dutch investments, trade and diplomacy. The Netherlands really has a role as forerunner, also within the EU. If the Netherlands - as one of the world’s largest food exporters - drafts rules for sustainabilising global food production, then this will stimulate other EU countries to follow. In the past, one of the Dutch government’s most often used arguments for not venturing in strict sustainability requirements, was that these were in conflict with WTO rules. The Commission Corbey, however, thinks this barrier can be removed, and we will let experts do further research on this.”
On October 30, the Ecosystem Alliance organised a seminar on soy and palm oil in The Hague. Dutch businesses, the Dutch government, as well as Dutch and Southern NGOs gathered and discussed the question of how the Netherlands can contribute to making the production of soy and palm oil more sustainable. The NGOs presented a ‘Call for Action’, an appeal to the Dutch government and industries to take action. Also, a video was made in which the impacts of large-scale soy and palm oil production and possible solutions are being explained and shown by local experts.
For more information:
Read more about this subject
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.
The rising demand for soy is having negative consequences for people and the environment in South America. Both ENDS reminds Dutch actors in the soy industry of their responsibilities and is working with partners on fair and sustainable alternatives.
External link / 20 July 2021
Systemic change is urgently needed to protect the Earth's forests and the rights of forest peoples. Deforestation and forest degradation are driven by global demand for products like palm oil and soy. Tackling the problem requires not reduced demand and better policies and practices at international levels, but also improved recognition of community land rights – a key focus of our work with partners in 2020.
Publication / 19 July 2021
News / 3 May 2021
Recently, Dutch media covered the publication of a new report, issued by WWF, stating the big role the Netherlands still has in global deforestation, mainly due to our soy and palm oil imports. To counter this alarming message, Paul Wolvekamp and Tamara Mohr wrote an op-ed about the possibilities the Netherlands has to change the tide, which was published in Dutch on the website Joop.nl. Below, you find the English translation.
News / 15 March 2021
In 2015, the United Nations instigated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These seventeen interrelated goals are intended to result, by 2030, in a better, fairer and more sustainable world in which no one is left behind. As a member of the UN, the Netherlands is committed to promote the SDGs and every year Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the central government publish reports on the progress made. The initiators of 'SDG Spotlight Nederland' however believe that there is a need for an annual report on the Netherlands' performance on specific SDGs from a different perspective. Fiona Dragstra and Stefan Schuller of Both ENDS contributed to the report on 2020 and tell us here why they think it is so important.
Blog / 16 February 2021
The Netherlands can contribute much to making agriculture sustainable – nationally and internationally
If the Netherlands wants to make its agriculture and livestock industry sustainable and to ensure that farmers get a fair price for their products, it will also have to look beyond its own borders. The Netherlands is the world's second largest exporter of agricultural products. We have a great impact because, through our trade relations, we uphold a system of intensive agriculture that destroys ecosystems and undermines local production. Partly due to our trade in agricultural products, the Dutch economy is has a large, and growing, footprint. That should and can be different: the Netherlands is in a good position to lead the required transition in agriculture. Fortunately, the party manifestos for the coming elections offer sufficient opportunities to set that in motion. A new coalition can thus take decisive new steps.
Blog / 2 February 2021By Eva Schmitz
Last week the Netherlands hosted the Climate Adaptation Summit in which world leaders discussed the need to adapt to the rapidly changing climate. While this is without doubt an incredibly urgent matter, I think it is of equal importance that the world's leaders also keep their promises on climate change mitigation measures and the protection of the remaining intact ecosystems. The Covid-19 pandemic has once again showed us that healthy and intact wildlife habitats and ecosystems are vital to the survival of our societies.
Elections are soon to be held in the Netherlands. The political parties are sharpening their knives and have outlined their plans in hefty manifestos. Not surprisingly, they mainly focus on domestic issues. International themes are primarily addressed in terms of opportunities for Dutch companies and threats in areas like health, privacy and competition that we need to protect ourselves against. But if we want to make the Netherlands sustainable, we especially need to look at our footprint beyond our own borders and make every effort to reduce it. In the weeks leading up to the elections, Both ENDS looks at where the parties' manifestos offer opportunities to achieve that.
Publication / 8 January 2021
Press release / 14 December 2020
Brussels, Belgium - 14 December
A landmark 1,193,652 submissions to the EU's public consultation on deforestation were handed over to the European Commission this afternoon, all of which demanded a strong EU law to protect the world's forests and the rights of people who depend on them. The one million+ submissions have made this the largest public consultation on environmental issues in the history of the EU, and the second largest ever.
Event / 16 November 2020, 18:30 - 19:30
The Netherlands is a major business partner to Brazil and has not been deterred by the record of human rights' abuses by Bolsonaro's government, nor by the coup d'Etat against the president Dilma Rousseff in 2016. How do the Dutch economic ties with the Brazilian political and corporate elites affect the Brazilian population, in particular indigenous peoples, nature and the global climate?
Publication / 12 November 2020
News / 19 October 2020
Both ENDS together with 13 other Dutch NGOs and trade unions have written to the Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation to express their deep concerns over the hasty approval of the so-called Omnibus Law on Job Creation by the Indonesian parliament.
News / 16 October 2020
To Eric Wirsiy, director of CENDEP, the importance of forests is clear: not only do they function as a "free supermarket", providing foods and other things to local communities, but they are crucial to make landscapes resilient to climate change and other impacts.
News / 15 October 2020
Institut Dayakologi works to preserve Indigenous Peoples' livelihoods and cultures in West Kalimantan. One of their central goals is to gain ancestral land rights for Indigenous communities. This is not only essential for the security of these communities, but also for the forests and ecosystems on which they depend for their livelihood, identity, culture and customs.
News / 21 September 2020
The Pantanal, the world's largest freshwater wetland, is suffering exceptionally devastating forest fires, mostly caused by human activities. Over the past few months, an area as big as Northern Ireland has burned down. Both ENDS's partner organisations call for attention for this ecological and social disaster.
Press release / 11 September 2020
100+ NGOs launch #Together4Forests urging EU action
Fires raging in the Amazon are started deliberately to make way for large-scale industrial agriculture – and EU market demand for commodities produced on former-forest land is adding fuel to the fires. Globally, the EU is responsible for over 10% of forest destruction through its consumption of commodities like meat, dairy, soy for animal feed, palm oil, coffee and cacao.
News / 11 September 2020
The world's forests are under threat. Remaining forests – havens of precious biodiversity and the lungs of the planet – are being cleared to make way for beef, soy, sugar and palm oil production, mining and other industrial activities, fuelled by increasing demand from Europe and other countries. But the good news is: you can help stop the destruction!
Press release / 26 August 2020
Dutch pension money is invested heavily in companies that contribute to deforestation in the Amazon region and the Cerrado savanna in Brazil, such as soy, animal feed and beef companies. This is concluded in a report published today by Profundo, commisioned by the Fair Finance Guide, Hivos and Both ENDS. All ten pension funds that were examined invest in these types of companies, with the ABP pension fund and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn on top with investments worth EUR 580 million and EUR 383 million respectively.